Shared housing for seniors
Retirement,  The Over 50 Lifestyle

Is Shared Senior Housing Right For You? What You Need To Know!

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.

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.

Seniors Sharing housing

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!).

Guest house Senior Housing
Guest house

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.

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Tricia worked in the financial services industry for over 20 years before deciding to divorce the corporate world in 2018. Tricia retired early so she could travel with her husband Jack (the Boomer) and Bo, their German Shepherd. They enjoy finding new experiences together and spending time with their family.

36 Comments

  • Suz | TravelsWithSuz.com

    This is really interesting. Currently, since I leased out my house to travel full time, and now I can’t 🙄 I’m staying with a friend from my car club. He has a tiny house, but an extra bedroom, and we’ve said many times how nice it is to be sharing a home during the pandemic – else, we’d be very, very lonely!

  • Sandra Barrett

    These are really interesting ideas. My mom has lived with us for 25 years, right now she has her own suite, but we will be downsizing soon and she’s going to get just a room. Not sure how that will work out?

  • kmf

    These are some really practical ways to finance senior living. Out of all of them, I think I like scenario four…will see how my son thinks of that in a couple of decades. Ha!

    • Tricia

      LOL Or his wife! I am fortunate my daughter is willing to do this with us. Not all parents and kids get along. I definitely think it is more prominent with daughters but a neighbor of ours is doing this with her son too.

  • Sabrina DeWalt

    This was an interesting and informative article about the options for seniors. It says something about society now that we are seeing so much more of this scenario.

  • Laura

    A lot to think about as my parents are in their 70’s. Lots of options and I’m sure every individual will have a different preference.

  • Kendra

    This is definitely an interesting concept to consider. My two best friends and I used to joke about having our own commune together one day. Maybe this would work, after all!

    • Tricia

      Perfect! I am not sure I could live with my best friend. We have managed to stay friends for 40 years by not talking about political and spiritual beliefs! lol Living in the same house would be tough.

      • Kendra Kaiser

        I think you’re right. I lived with my best friend after high school for a year and it nearly ruined our friendship. I can imagine with many more years under our belts, we’re even more set in our ways, so this could be rough.

  • Suz @ TravelsWithSuz.com

    How Interesting! As I was reading this, it dawned on me that I myself am in a “shared senior housing” situation!
    When I retired, I leased out my house in order to travel full time – but now I’ve been sort of stuck in Albuquerque since March.
    I’m staying in a room in a friend’s house, and though I’m not paying rent, I pay for the cleaning lady, and buy groceries occasionally.
    I’ve often thought that both he and I have truly benefitted from our companionship during this pandemic – it would be pretty lonely (and silly) to be all alone, and really isolated all this time. And, it’s definitely a great money – saver.

    • Tricia

      I love this. This is a great situation and you are blessed to have had someone to stay with during the Pandemic. With so many singles out there these days it makes sense!

    • Tricia

      It is really more popular than you know. It was just done differently. During my grandfather’s day, he told me many men just got re-married to have someone to help take care of each other. Now it can happen in many different ways.

  • MissKorang

    I read and reread this. As an African who’s spent most of my life living in West Africa before uprooting to the US three years ago, this is so alien to me. It is one of my culture shocks. Where I’m from we just take in our parents and grandparents and hope our kids and/or nephews & nieces would do same. I know understand the old adage ‘travel and see’

    • Tricia

      Yes! Many cultures are like that and we actually raised our kids to think this way. But it is not common in the US or even Europe. My daughter fully expects us to live our senior years with her. They live just a few blocks away now and we love being able to pop over and vice versa.

  • Pam

    Some really interesting ideas for shared senior housing. We often talk about what we’ll eventually do when we retire and I could see a few of these being viable options.

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