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Sharing a house or apartment with a friend or stranger is not just for young adults. While many single older adults love living alone, others prefer companionship. Whether you are alone because of divorce, the death of a spouse or loved one, or you’re an empty-nester, there are alternatives to living single.

Some adults feel more comfortable living with a close friend or family member. Others decide to explore shared housing and room with total strangers. Is this safe, you ask? Relax, the chance you’ll end up with a psycho is pretty rare.

Benefits and Pitfalls

Aside from the obvious— the fact that you’re not alone— shared housing offers other benefits. From a financial standpoint, the household bills are divided— giving you more discretionary funds to play with. If you have health issues or concerns, having another person in the house (especially at night) can ease your mind in case you have an emergency. You can take trips together. Plus, there’s the sharing of household chores like cooking, cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping.

Of course, there are pitfalls to shared housing. Before embarking on this arrangement, you need to make sure everyone’s on the same page. You need to decide how much each person will pay, what it covers, and who will be responsible for paying the bills. You should decide how the chores will be divided. Can roomies have overnight guests? What about pets? Yep, you need to decide these questions in advance.

Many of these issues will probably be easier to work out depending on your roommate. For example, a relative probably won’t care when your kids or grandkids visit for two weeks during the summer. But a stranger (or your BFF) might. No matter what your relationship to your roommate is, you should be respectful. Don’t invite friends over and let them eat up all of yummies in the fridge, for example.

Having a roommate means getting used to their little idiosyncrasies. Remember they have to get used to your quirks too. As a writer, I require lots of quiet time. And I don’t like people walking up on me when I’m in “the writing zone.” I recently told my son I was going to make him wear a bell around his neck so he would stop sneaking up on me. He reminded me that he wasn’t sneaking up on me but, as he put it “merely walking”. I know there are writers who can write with chaos around them. I am not one of those writers. If you see me at a coffeehouse, you can be sure I’m not there to write, I’m there to drink coffee. So, I would have a hard time rooming with someone who talks a lot or makes a lot of noise.

How to Find a Roommate

There are a few routes you can take if you decide shared housing is for you. If you have enough space, you could have someone move in with you. If you prefer to downsize, you could sell your home and move in with someone else. If you already have a roommate in mind and you both want a fresh start— or neither have a large enough space— you can look for a new place together.

You can check in your own community or within your circle of friends and family members to find a roommate. But most people go online.

National Shared Housing Resource Program

National Shared Housing Resource Program (NSHRP) provides a directory of state resources for adults seeking a house sharing arrangement. It is probably the best resource for older adults looking for roommates. The programs in each state offer different levels of services. According to their website, shared housing falls into three categories:

  1. Match-Up Programs that connects home providers with home seekers. The seekers either pay rent or receive rent reductions in exchange for providing services to the homeowner.
  2. Shared Living arrangements where two or more people live together.
  3. Information only programs that provide resource and referral services.

Here are a few examples:

  • Shared Housing of New Orleans, for example, offers match-up services. The agency works with elderly and disabled individuals to keep them out of nursing homes. In exchange for light housekeeping and companionship, the homeowner provides room and board.
  • The New York Foundation for Senior Citizen has a home sharing program that links adults (hosts) who have extra private space, with adults (guests) who need a place to live. At least one of the adults must be 60 or older.
  • Home Share Pinellas Florida connects home providers with people looking to rent a room. The homeowners are usually people who have more room than they need or can afford. They are usually looking for renters to provide financial support and sometimes chores or maintenance work around the house. According to their website, renters typically pay $450 to $600 a month. This includes utilities.

Internet or Community Search

You can also look for or place an ad online. A simple search for “roommate” plus your city, should return a ton of results. And don’t forget about social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. You can also go old school and place flyers in your community. You can run ads in your church’s bulletin or local paper. Talk to everyone you know. Someone may know someone who’s looking for a roommate.


A word of caution is in order. Before you set up house with a stranger, you definitely want to run a background check. Some of the NSHRP shared housing programs will vet both the homeowner and the person looking for a room. But if you’re using an app or website database or craigslist, you definitely want to make sure you know who you’re dealing with.

Additional Resources:

Here’s a couple of good books on room sharing. Check with your local library or snag one from Amazon.

Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates

The Senior Cohousing Handbook: A Community Approach to Independent Living

How to Start a Golden Girls Home





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