Does grandma need a roommate?

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Patricia McLennan, the CEO of a non-profit called Home of the Sparrow based in Exton, Pennsylvania, wrote a letter to the editor in my local paper. Her organization’s mission is, “to provide housing and supportive services to homeless and low-income women who want to improve their lives and become self-sufficient.”

Senior women are a part of that mission. In her letter McLennan says, “Shared housing is an innovative solution that helps two populations — elderly homeowners who may otherwise lose their homes and women who are in need of safe, affordable housing.”

Organizations provide this type of service throughout the country. In Los Angeles, it’s Affordable Living for the Aging, or ALA. Check with your local housing authority to find out what services may be available in your area.

Home sharing is more popular with women than men, in part because women tend to live longer than their husbands. The financial pressures they may face after the death of a spouse is another reason. The decision whether to rent, versus shared ownership of a home, depends on finances.

Home sharing do’s and don’ts

The following tips are from the AARP Bulletin, written by Sally Abrahms:

Before moving in or accepting a housemate:

• Make sure everyone in the house meets the prospective housemate before giving the go-ahead. Meet on Skype if long distances are involved. Good chemistry is key!
• Decide how common rooms will be used and cleaned, what possessions are shared or off-limits, and how chores will get done.
• In writing, spell out rules on smoking, overnight/day guests, how and when to pay bills and what happens if the home share fails. All should sign.
• Before house keys are distributed, make sure all money is paid (for example, first month and last month, security deposit).
• Don’t pay, or accept, a security deposit in installments.
• Any pet peeves? Discuss!
• Share a meal after a week to see how the arrangement is working.
• Have an exit strategy — just in case.

House sharing can be a way for senior homeowners to age in place, while offering shared space to others. The non-profit agencies typically act as an intermediary to interview housemates for suitability, as well as the home for safety considerations.

Would you be willing to take on roommates in order to stay in your home longer?

For more information on the topic, read Home-share programs benefit seniors.

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