If you’re like me, you weren’t surprised to read about the recent Age Wave/Merrill Lynch study finding that two-thirds of retirees now say they are living in “the best home of their life.”
I too am living in my dream home, but with a different cast of characters than I could have ever imagined. When a divorce left me living alone in newly remodeled 5-bedroom home in 2008, I searched for and found four roommates to fill the bedrooms.
Now more than eight years later, my roommates have become an important part of my life. In addition to contributing rent that makes my mortgage affordable, we throw parties together, get to know one another’s friends, and help each other out.
Golden Girls Living on the Rise
I call it the Golden Girls (or Golden Guys) Lifestyle and it is shared housing for mature adults. In 2000, there were 820,000 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. By 2013, that number had risen to 1,090,000.
That’s right—roommates aren’t just for college students anymore! The shared living movement is being embraced across the country as an exciting aging-in-place option for baby boomers.
People are looking for answers because housing cost are too high both for retirees and those of us who are still working. People are lonely when kids grow up and their spouse is no longer around. Many struggle financially. Shared living is a great solution.
Finding the Right Roommate
“Finding the right person” is at the top of the list when you decide to embark on this adventure. But, who is right for you? How do you know? Start with, “Who am I, and what is important to me?” When you know these answers, you know who you are looking for!
Start by considering these common deal-breakers. Does she/he smoke? Is it OK with you if the person is an outside smoker? Will she/he bring a pet? Sometimes pets don’t like to move, and they let you know. Bringing in a new pet is a “two-fer!”
Are there cultural or lifestyle differences that will become too difficult? I encourage diversity, but sometimes you can live next door to someone but not in the same house. For instance, are there significant differences in religious practices, eating habits, hobbies, political interests, working hours, and a bunch of other things that are important for a comfortable living situation? You have to decide what works for you, and then talk about it.
Other Shared Living Considerations
Age Differences. Look for a roommate that is within ten years of your age, and don’t go beyond twenty years on either side. With too much of a difference, you will notice the age nuances and it will frustrate you!
Cleanliness factors. Most women are accustomed to housework and will keep a place in good shape. Some women, however, really need things to be back in their places immediately, every spot wiped off the counter, and the floor swept daily. If this is you, find someone like you. If this is not you, same advice.
Can you get along with his/her personality? Are you fairly assertive and outgoing? Are you quiet and bookish? How would you assess the personality of a potential roommate? Can you sense an “angry” factor beneath the surface? How would you assess the “honesty factor”?
Interviewing a potential roommate is a lot like a job interview. He/she will tell you what you want to hear. It is your job to listen below the surface and hear danger signals. Trust your intuition. Selecting a good roommate takes patience, but it can be done. You also learn a great deal about yourself and you learn to develop assertiveness!
Where to Start
Once you identify the factors that are important to you, start advertising and talking to your friends. Print up a flyer and pass it out at your church or community groups. Develop a listing for some of the major roommate sites, including Golden Girls Network, and keep talking about it! Don’t be afraid to interview a number of people before making a decision.
Most of all, start developing your written house agreements and a written lease. Even if you decide to rent on a month-to-month basis, you need it in writing. Don’t take anything for granted…get those details down in writing. Be positive and forthright, and decide what is important to you.