Remember Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia? More than an '80s sitcom that recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, The Golden Girls sparked a movement. From a surprising concept -- who has housemates past their twenties? -- shared living has become a national housing model that has been featured in the New York Times, The Huffington Post, ABC, PBS, and NPR. It's credited as creating the "roommate generation" for baby boomers, and gives single baby boomers a way to find companionship, shore up their finances, and age in place - staying in their homes as they grow older.
With housing costs high and feelings of loneliness when children are grown and a spouse is no longer around, older adults are looking for answers. Today, the shared living movement is being embraced across the country as an exciting aging-in-place option for baby boomers. Many people begin thinking about shared living following a divorce, the loss of a loved one, or another major life event. Demographic data indicate that in the wake of the recession, shared living for mature adults is on the rise. In 2013, there were more than a million households where single people ages 46 to 64 shared housing with non-relatives, according to Bowling Green State University's Center for Family and Demographic Research.
Further evidence of the shared housing trend and opportunity, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of unrelated women who live together has grown from 2.96 percent in 2005 to 3.8 percent in 2012. An AARP analysis of census data in 2014 found 132,000 households with 490,000 people in shared living situations. Not only is the number of older adults who are embracing shared living increasing, the number of areas where you can find shared living options is growing, too. The National Shared Housing Resource Center, a nonprofit that helps educate baby boomers and older adults about the benefits and options of shared living, lists 54 local, national, and international organizations that match roommates or find shared housing options that operate in 23 states. Golden Girls Network is the only national roommate matching service - featuring an online database that allows homeowners to find potential roommates and home seekers to find available rooms in their area (or another place they'd like to move).
Whether choosing shared living to offset costs of maintaining a home independently, companionship, security, or someone to help around the house, shared living makes it easier for baby boomers to age in place. And as baby boomers, we want to stay right where we are, thank you. AARP released a report in April 2014 that indicated 71 percent of adults aged 50 to 64 want to continue living where they are now. For adults age 65 and older, the number is even higher at 87 percent.
More than numbers, however, roommates point to the trend as being one of the best, unexpected elements of their retirement life. From holidays to everyday life, the companionship provides real benefits. Thanksgiving now brings multiple families together and provides a table for those without local relatives. And Sunday night dinner allows housemates to become friends - sharing the fun of their weekend and what's on tap for their weeks with others in the same boat.
I found "Golden Girls" living when a divorce left me with a recently remodeled home and four empty bedrooms I could no longer afford on my own. I love to share my story.
Want to learn more about shared living? Please contact me.
Bonnie Moore, 70, is the President and Founder of Golden Girls Network, the only nationwide network that helps mature adults find roommates and access the resources they need to make shared living work. She is also the author of How to Start a Golden Girls Home.
*This article first appeared on the Golden Girls Network blog.