Unfortunately, Baby Boomers are struggling with financing their retirement. This leaves seniors looking for affordable housing or being faced to leave their homes once they can no longer work full time. With senior citizens struggling to make ends meet shared senior housing has become a growing trend in the US.
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How Seniors Feel About Home Sharing
The AARP survey in 2018 finds many adults age 50 and older are willing to consider alternatives such as home-sharing (32%), building an accessory dwelling unit (31%) and villages that provide services that enable aging in place (56%).
While I am sure many seniors would prefer to live in their own homes without the potential hazards of a roommate, the fact is this is an upward trend. This is because there are a significantly higher number of seniors who are single due to higher divorce rates. Many seniors may have no choice if they are single and unable to make ends meet. Sharing can be the answer to staying active and independent during retirement.
What Is Shared Senior Housing Exactly?
Shared senior housing, simply put, is more than one senior sharing a living space. However, shared senior housing does not look the same for everyone. It can offer different options for seniors who are looking to share expenses and there is more than one way to do it. Couples and singles are sharing space now. It is the housing options that can vary from situation to situation.
Scenario One – Roommates in your existing home
Everyone can remember the wildly popular show, the Golden Girls. Blanche owned a beautiful home in South Florida. Her good friends Rose, Dorothy, Dorothy’s mother, Sophia all lived together, paid Blanche their rent and shared expenses.
While shared senior housing was not popular then, the show most certainly was, while we watched 4 very different personalities navigate retirement, friendship and living together under one roof. Obviously, those are the cons of this type of living arrangement.
Often when we age, folks can change. They can become more set in their ways and less flexible. Or they can become overly compliant and be at risk for an abusive situation.
However, overall this can be a great scenario for someone who is looking for companionship and someone to help with the finances. Often the roommates can help care for each other during medical procedures, help with transportation and house duties.
Scenario Two – Roommates in a Senior Assisted Living Apartment
Many seniors are opting for sharing space in a private senior living community. Although this is a more expensive option, it is really not as expensive as you might think when you consider the amenities. Of course, not all places are the same, but in general, they offer 3 types of care. Independent care, Assisted Care and Memory Care.
A roommate situation is possible in the independent care option. I did call one local facility and the rent ranged from $3400-3600 per month for a 2 bedroom apartment. The apartment has a full kitchen and the prices will depend on the view. For a roommate, there would be an additional charge of $1000 per month bringing the total to $3400 per month.
The lease can be in both names or just one. But if one roommate passed or moved on to assisted care, then they would be responsible for the full rent of $3400. Paying $2200 (shared) while having companionship and the services that are offered here, can be an optimal situation for seniors who are still independent but want the benefits that come with this type of arrangement.
The rent includes:
- Weekly housekeeper with fresh linens
- Chef prepared meals – Continental breakfast and lunch or dinner
- 24-hour concierge
- Spa, salon and barbershop
- Transportation to appointments
- Classes, entertainment, fitness center, pool and activities
This particular facility does not accept any Medicare or government assistance. They also did not check your financials to make sure you could sustain those payments, which I found unusual. When I asked what happens if someone runs out of money she stated we will work with them on a smaller unit and work within their budget.
Scenario Three – Couples Sharing Ownership of a Home
In doing research for this article, I found a video of a television program in Australia. The show featured seniors who were living in luxury for their retirement, on a budget. One of the scenarios represented in the show were three couples who were friends, that decided to live together in a shared home.
Initially, they rented for the first two years to make sure it would be a good fit, and then eventually built a home with three separate studio living quarters and a shared common area for the kitchen and living spaces. It was working for them after many years into the arrangement.
The investment for each couple was $250,000. It was a lovely modern home on acreage in the countryside of Australia. The pitfalls with this are unlike the assisted living apartment, you would have to leave if you could not afford to bring someone in and the others were unwilling or unable to care for you.
However, there were so many unanswered questions. What if one couple wanted to leave the arrangement or a spouse passed? What if a couple wanted to divorce? How would you resell their unit when it is attached to the main house? What about the couple’s heirs? How would they deal with probate?
There were a lot of sticky scenarios in this situation that as a banker and a real estate investor, made me take pause. But it is an option if you can find the right couples and hammer out all of those details from the beginning.
Scenario Four – Building An Accessory Unit
Many seniors are opting for living on someone else’s property in a guest home or mother-in-law suite. My son in law’s mother just made the decision to do this with his sister. His mom is selling her home and building an addition to her daughter’s home so it will be easier to care for her mom.
Not only does it add value to her daughter’s property, but it gives her mom some additional cash to use within her later years for a home health aide. It is also a fantastic way to transfer her assets to her daughter before she passes.
We have discussed this with our own children. We plan on living out our later years with our daughter and son in law, where we can have two homes. They will purchase their home on land that will be able to accommodate a smaller second home that we will build. This way we have someone to care for our place when we travel and us as we age. They have the benefit of extended family on their property that can help with the grandchildren and other household duties (if I feel like it!).
The Pros and Cons of Shared Senior Housing
As with any situation, there will be pros and cons, especially when sharing space with another human that is not a family member.
- Companionship – Many seniors experience loneliness and isolation. Having someone else around can eliminate senior isolation. Since there are more senior singles, senior isolation is on the rise.
- Protection – Seniors are less likely to be taken advantage of when they have more than one person in the home. Not to mention the phone and online scams. If someone else can see what is happening sometimes that objective person can see when a person is getting scammed.
- Financial Benefits – By renting out bedrooms and sharing expenses on utilities you can earn additional money to cover the expenses and upkeep of your home.
- You are not forced to sell and downsize your home to save money.
- Living with others – Living with strangers can be stressful. Roommates can be messy or have quirks. They also can bring others into the home that you may not like.
- Eviction – If it does not work or they default you have to ask them to leave. If they refuse, you have to evict them. Are you ready to be a landlord?
- Tax consequences – Make sure you check with a CPA to determine any tax consequences with taking in additional income.
Shared senior housing is a definite new trend helping seniors to stay in their homes and reduce expenses during retirement. Sharing a home with another senior can ensure independence. With 3 out of 10 seniors facing feelings of isolation and lack of companionship, finding the right roommate can bring a great amount of joy, peace of mind and satisfaction to your retirement.
However, there are risks. You are legally becoming a landlord. It is best to find a trusted friend or someone you find through your existing network. Make sure you do a real lease so there is no confusion concerning the details.
All in all this can be a mutually beneficial relationship that can solve many issues seniors are facing today.