Jody Rafa has been looking for a roommate for over a year. Her husband died five years ago, and her losses increased her family’s income by 75%.
The 76-year-old girl lives in a sunny house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms overlooking the lake in a community of 55-year-olds and seniors in Groveland, Florida. The sunsets from her back porch are “stunning”. However, the fees of the owners’ associations have just risen again, and inflation has left it “stunned”.
“I live on a very strict budget and I can’t do extra things at all,” said Rafa, who worked in an administrative position before she and her late husband retired in 2010. Rafa now views the move as a “hasty decision” in light of her financial circumstances. “I’m anxious and a planner, so logic suggested getting a roommate.”
When she removes ads indicating women over the age of 55, she receives responses mostly from men aged 60 or adults aged 20, 30 or 40. Rafa hopes for an easier way to find and test potential participants in his home. “I’m very disappointed,” she said.
Like many boomers, Rafa wants to continue living in her home and find work working remotely, either in data entry or editing. Faced with rising house prices and rents in tight housing markets, as well as careers or wages reduced by age or a pandemic, some boomers are seeking to share their homes. Enter allies.
“As the boomers age, you see bigger and bigger numbers in shared housing,” said Rodney Harel, vice president of family, home and community at AARP, noting that boomers are more open than previous generations to try. alternative solutions to traditional aging. trajectory.
In an interview with NPR in 1987, the late Betty White noted that four women who lived together in The Golden Girls did so for social reasons rather than financial necessity. “All I think we’ve achieved is to show that there is an alternative way of life,” White told Fresh Belief about the show’s success. “If you’ve noticed, the‘ Golden Girls ’aren’t together for economic reasons. They are together for sociological reasons. He is struggling with loneliness. “
Four decades later, the idea of homelessness in late adulthood is experiencing a resurgence, but with financial factors. As boomers live longer and retire without an employer-funded financial security network, covering rising food, housing and insurance costs is becoming a major consideration. Linda Hoffman, founder of the New York Foundation for the Elderly, which manages the home-sharing program, noted that the number of applications is increasing as finances become more stressful.
“When we started the home-sharing program in 1981, removing the feeling of isolation and loneliness was a major need,” Hoffman said. “Now the available place to live is the number one need. Landlords need help to cover the cost of housing. Even for householders who have entered into a social agreement, the extra money has become more important as their financial picture has changed with the pandemic.
70-year-old Debbie Campbell, a retired copywriter, met Loretta Halter, a retired manager from the Kroger grocery chain, in 2018 at a Czech cultural event in New York. Campbell was grieving the loss of her boyfriend, who had lived nearly 20 years from cancer. Holter moved to New York from Upling, Georgia, a few years ago. She had previously used the NYFSC housing-sharing program to find an affordable apartment, but was unhappy with her situation when she decided to become housemates with Campbell.
The two went through the NYFSC program to process verification, verification, and administrative details before Holter moved into Campbell’s one-bedroom apartment for rent in Greenwich Village. Before the pandemic, they lived a separate life. Campbell lived mostly in the bedroom and Holter in the living room. But when the city closed, they formed a strong friendship.
“First we started with crossword puzzles, puzzles and TV, and it worked out well,” Campbell said. The ease of experiencing a roommate as a friend surprised her. “I mean, I’m one of those people who spent a good time of my life in therapy, mostly complaining about people I knew.”
After she was initially fired in March 2020 as a long-term temporary officer in the Department of Education, Campbell retired in October 2020 at age 68, more than a year earlier than she expected. At the time, she also decided to get Social Security benefits rather than wait until age 70 as she had planned.
“I was not in despair because of the money, but after the pandemic came, suddenly you had a company in which you would not be. And suddenly there will be extra money from home for you, which I would not have. It was just fun. I feel the happiest person in a pandemic, ”she said.
While a dozen homeowners interviewed for this story insisted that their parents would find the idea unusual, later in life it seems to be more accepted neighbors around the house. In 2021, 70% of adults over the age of 50 said they were willing to share their home with a family member who is not a husband, 51% said they would be willing to share with a friend, and 6% said they would share a home with a stranger, according to an AARP survey. Of those who said they would not share their home at all, 23% said they would change their minds if they needed extra income.
“Most people who are considering sharing a home with a friend or family member tell me that there is an opportunity for more people to take advantage of the extra housing we already have in our homes, which may meet your needs. and a friend or neighbor, ”Harel said. “Or maybe a society that can help with costs, such as care. There are just so many benefits. And we just don’t necessarily use it. It’s close to its potential. “
Nonprofit and commercial programs, as well as municipalities, are cultivating growing interest in housing sharing, especially for those boomers who are rich in housing and poor in the expensive housing market. Since 2015, there have been or are running programs in New York, Seattle, Denver, Tucson, Northern California and the Washington subway area.
“From what we’ve seen, attitudes toward home sharing are waning,” said Riley Gibson, president of the Silvernest Home Sharing Service in Denver, which brings older people together with neighbors. The service is particularly active in housing markets that are tougher, such as San Francisco, Phoenix, Tampa, Miami and Los Angeles. Silvernest recently partnered with Montgomery County, Maryland to begin a pilot program and plans to launch more in several cities later this year.
Tenants and homeowners can fill out profiles on a site that supports services, including rental templates, insurance, and verification. A similar service, based in Boston Nesterly, connects seniors with younger ones to promote the share of the home between generations. Another Senior Homeshares service has gained nearly 70,000 members nationwide since its inception in 2015.
Even before the pandemic, demographics were shifting toward single-family households. In 1960, 85% of households consisted of families, according to the Bureau of Population Information. By 2017, this figure had dropped to 65% of households.
As Americans continue to age, Harel and others expect rising demand for new housing options. “As a society, we built and thought about young families, built housing and communities for young people,” he said.
“But that need is changing as community leaders, builders and designers” “start thinking more and more about what happens to us as we get older. And Covid has given impetus to these conversations, ”Harel said.
Kim Balding, 61, allowed her to stay in a five-bedroom home in Colorado Springs, where she was raising her biological, foster and adopted children after she was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in 2012.
Balding, a former social worker, was able to continue working at home until 2017. But after she was forced to go on social security disability, payments were not enough to keep up with her housing costs. “I didn’t want to enter into a partner-only life. I wanted to keep my house, ”she said.
First, an old neighbor moved downstairs where he could have his own bathroom. With the help of the nonprofit Sunshine Home Share Colorado of Denver, Balding found two more homes. Since then, she has mostly lived with three other household members at the same time: two men on the same floor in the bathroom and a woman on her floor. “It allows me to maintain my own individuality. I can say what I want if I set my needs and rules, ”she said.
All household members are disabled but collectively able to live independently. Balding can take her adult children when they visit, but they don’t feel obligated to move in with her to cope with her illness. Instead, she builds a new community with housewives, regularly having dinners together.
“We run it as a family and we have room for others,” Balding said. Having households is a great alternative to staying in a place where you don’t have much choice: who your neighbors are, who you interact with, or you lose a lot of autonomy, and that’s part of the aging problem, ”she added.
Bolding already had several household members who had left because of a change in their fate. Two received state-subsidized housing, one married and the other inherited a house and cars from an uncle who had recently passed away. She considers her home a harbinger of good luck and said she has received many calls asking for information or advice on how to do something similar.
“It’s becoming more popular, especially for my age group for people in similar situations. We need each other. We get the blessing, and they get the blessing, ”Balding said.