For many, the term "housemates" conjures up memories of those youthful years before marriage and home ownership, when unrelated people lived in a communal situation, each paying his or her own way.
These days, baby boomers are bringing back that concept, with a twist: house sharing is occurring later in life, often as a hedge against aging-related physical restrictions – and loneliness.
Women are pioneering the new housing model
As they age, female boomers are often finding themselves facing longer working lives, often without a life partner. Whether single by choice, divorce or widowhood, these women are discovering that sharing a large house with a few of their peers is a great way to stretch limited funds.
A cooperative housing situation can also keep isolation at bay, providing companionship and a sense of belonging – as well as welcome assistance with household chores. For boomers, concerns about being alone when they are older are prompting many to create alternative living arrangements while they are still in their fifties – or younger.
Benefits abound, but so do compromises
While there are definite advantages to these communal lifestyles, there are also concessions that must be made to keep all participants happy. Some may be as basic as whether the group purchases a home together, with an equal interest, or if the majority become tenants of a single owner. Dividing up chores, rules about pets, overnight guests, and other minutiae of everyday life must all be negotiated, and settled. As in any home-sharing arrangement, personal privacy is especially important.
The idea is catching on, and some of the women who have successfully created these cooperative lifestyle changes are helping others do the same. Bonnie Moore is the founder of the Golden Girls Network, which will eventually host a database that members can use to find compatible housemates, in addition to an e-book and workshop on the concept. The National Shared Housing Resource Center offers a region-by-region list of representatives for those looking locally for home-sharing options.
Planning is key
Before embarking upon this type of lifestyle change, experts – including the women who have written books about the experience – stress the need to plan ahead, which usually involves lawyers and financial planners. Having an enforceable home-sharing plan, as well as a personal financial roadmap, are two of the most important aspects of this creative housing option, which will doubtless mature with age, right along with the baby boomers.