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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Roommates Aren’t Just for College Students

Baby Boomer roommates

When you think of roommates, you probably think of people in their 20s and 30s, but there’s a growing trend among Baby Boomers and beyond to find roommates for their golden years.

What do the Odd Couple and Golden Girls have in common? You may say they were good comedy, but there’s more. Both sitcoms featured older adults sharing a living space. It’s a trend that’s gaining in popularity outside the television world. According to the AARP, sharing a house is one of the fastest growing housing options for people over the age of 65.

Many people think of roommates and house sharing as being options for adults in their 20s and 30s, but as 8,000-10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 each day, many are looking to the future. How will they manage their homes in retirement? What if they lose a spouse? Or, one of the fastest growing age groups for divorce is 65 and older. How do you manage alone?

The Benefits of Sharing a House

Whatever the reason might be, more and more older adults are looking at ways to share their home, with good reason. There are many benefits of having a roommate:

  • Financial Help: Finances are perhaps the biggest reason that older adults consider roommates. Finding a roommate is a good way to supplement retirement dollars that just don’t stretch far enough, or to have some extra money for the fun parts of life.

  • Companionship: Many circumstances can leave an older adult unexpectedly facing their golden years alone. Finding the right roommate can ensure you have companionship – a friend to talk to and spend time with.

  • Safety & Assistance: Some older adults may find that they don’t have the mobility they used to have. Maybe you have health issues that make it necessary to have someone around to help. Having someone that can help you with day-to-day life is one reason many older adults choose the roommate option, especially those whose children live far away and have no one else to check on them. For some, a roommate is the difference between living independently and living in an assisted care facility.

Whatever your reasoning for considering a roommate, know that you’re not alone. Thousands of seniors are turning to this option so they can remain in their home, or not have to live alone. In fact, the AARP estimates that nearly 4 million woman over the age of 50 live with roommates who are also over the age of 50.

Finding the Right Roommate

Knowing that many people are living with roommates in their older years doesn’t necessary make it any less frightening for some people. After all, there are many variables. How do you find a roommate? How do you find someone that you like? How do you determine what to charge or if you should barter the services of an individual in exchange for them living in your spare room?

Probably the first place that most older adults look when considering a roommate is their immediate circle of friends and family. Is there someone that is in the same situation you’re in that you would be willing to share a house with? In many cases, however, the reason that a person is looking for a roommate is because they do not have friends and family nearby.

Fortunately, there are roommate finder services popping up all over the Internet these days. Some of them, like Silvernest, are designed specifically for empty nesters and Baby Boomers. Services like this ask you to complete a questionnaire and answer questions related to the roommate that you seek. Then they connect you with your matches and you find the person that suits your personality the best.

Even with a roommate service helping to match you up with someone who has similar interests and needs, you’ll still need to spend some time getting to know this person. It’s always good to meet a few times for coffee or drinks before scheduling a suitcase visit. This is when your potential new roommate comes to stay with you for a few days before the final decision is made. It’s a way to try out the relationship before you commit to it.

Making it Official

Once you’ve found a roommate, then you need to put an agreement in place. Some people believe a handshake deal is enough, but in truth, you need to protect your biggest asset – your home. To do that, it’s wise to have a clear understanding of what both parties can expect from your newly formed relationship.

In the agreement, be sure to outline what each party’s responsibilities are, and what is required from each party to sever the relationship. Take into consideration things like failing health family needs. For example, what happens to your roommate if you have a health issue that requires long-term care? What if another member of your family needs your long-term help, and they live in another state?

If necessary, obtain legal assistance to draw up the documents you might need. It’s well worth the expense to ensure your assets are properly protected.

Older adults are finding independence and happiness in the roommates they’re choosing. A roommate situation is an excellent option for allowing you to age in place, but not alone, even if your family lives far away. Just be sure to use reputable services to find your roommate, and outline expectations for both sides of the relationship. Then, you can enjoy sharing day-to-day life again.

Disclaimer: The Society of Certified Senior Advisors does not dispense legal advice and nothing in this article should be construed as such. If you have legal questions, please contact an attorney in your area.


Home Sharing: A Powerful Option to Help Older Americans Stay In their Home,” November 2016, AARP.

Over 50 and Need a Roommate? A New Site Has You Covered,” Starre Vartan, April 2014, Mother Nature Network.

Retired, with Roommate: Seniors Share the Rent,” National Shared Housing Resource Center.

New Trend: Senior Roommates,” Terri Yablonsky Statt, January 2014, my.SilverAge.

Co-housing: Consider Having a Senior Roommate,” May 2016, Seniorly.

Seniors Seeking Roommates: ‘Golden Girls’ Please Apply,” Clare Trapasso, June 2016,

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors