Aging Options

"Golden Girls" Revisited? The Pros and Cons of Living with Roommates

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Blanche, Dorothy, Rose and Sophia – they were television’s Golden Girls, living as housemates and sharing life together back in the 1980’s. They were funny, irreverent and iconic. They got on each other’s nerves but also loved and supported one another. And now, more than three decades later, we find ourselves wondering: could the Golden Girls have been right? Is living with roommates part of the new landscape of retirement as the third decade of the 21st century approaches?

If the idea intrigues you, we think you’ll enjoy this article that we just discovered on the aging-related website NextAvenue. Written by business owner Lori Martinek, it’s called “Retirement Roommates: Were ‘The Golden Girls’ Right?”  However, warns the subtitle, it’s vital to learn to establish boundaries – and to understand what a roommate is and isn’t – before deciding that sharing a house is the retirement solution for you.

According to Martinek’s NextAvenue article, more than a third of baby boomers are single, and the majority of those are women. “Many of us share common fears as we enter retirement,” the article says. “We fear financial challenges, failing health and feelings of disconnectedness as we grow older. The good news is that there is one strategy which can help us effectively face all three — living with roommates.” NextAvenue calls shared housing “an age-old concept that is becoming the latest housing trend.”

Here at AgingOptions we like to remind our clients, radio listeners and seminar guests that aging is a family affair, and that being with those closest to you as you age can often be the best antidote to loneliness and isolation in retirement. But for many reasons, being close to family isn’t always possible or desirable: the distance can be too great, or the relationships too strained. You may also be a single person with no close family in your life. Whatever the circumstances, living by yourself is simply not for everyone. For one thing, it’s expensive, especially in some cities like Seattle where housing costs are sky high. Living alone is also isolating, and even if you know your neighbors, they don’t always become part of your support system the way good roommates can. In the best of circumstances, your life could be the Golden Girls all over again.

“Embracing the idea of retirement with roommates opens the door to affordable shared housing options,” says the NextAvenue article. After all, most of us have done it before, in college or young adulthood (which is why, the article says, “you may be cringing as you think about being in a roommate situation again”). But even if that experience from decades ago wasn’t the best, retiring with roommates can definitely makes sense for today’s seniors. NextAvenue’s Lori Martinek lists at least five solid advantages of having roomies as you get older.

  • Cost: “First and foremost, it is cheaper to live with other people. You share housing costs, utilities and often food. If you own a large home, you can offset the cost of maintaining it by taking on roommates. You get to age in place and your roommates gain a more affordable way to live.”
  • Sociability: “There’s something to be said for having friendly faces around instead of empty rooms.”
  • Sharing the Load: “There will be other people to share chores and responsibilities and to provide a helping hand when needed.”
  • Care in Emergencies: “It is more likely that someone will be around to help if you take a fall, to notice if you don’t come home or to call 911 when necessary. This can provide real peace of mind.”
  • Security and Sociability: “There is a sense of security that comes with having roommates — and not just when you hear a noise in the middle of the night. You gain companionship and people to potentially share holidays and special occasions with. Your circle will grow, as you meet the friends and family that roommates bring to the equation. Only you can decide if that is desirable or not.”

So much for the pros – what about the cons? Unless you and your roommates know how to collaborate and cooperate, your shared housing arrangement may be doomed. “People who live together need to maintain healthy boundaries and respect privacy,” warns Martinek. You also need a clear understanding that those you’re sharing a house with “are not surrogate spouses or friends…not caregivers, chauffeurs or home health providers. They are your partners in a living arrangement. Perspective is key.” Finally, it goes without saying that you need a healthy embrace of diversity when it comes to religions, world views and lifestyles. Sadly, we often grow less tolerant, not more so, as we age. If you decide to try out a roommate arrangement, some healthy self-examination ahead of time may be a prerequisite.

There are a few excellent cautionary notes at the end of the article. “A written (and signed) rental agreement,” advises Martinek, “is essential to outline house rules, shared responsibilities for rent, related bills and household chores and to help maintain harmony between housemates. Private and shared spaces in the home should be clearly outlined. Policies regarding visitors, overnight guests and quiet time are important.” And, yes, potential roomies should be willing to submit to a background check.

The housing choices you make in retirement are extremely important, but they can’t be made in a vacuum. Here at AgingOptions we always remind our clients, seminar guests and radio listeners of the necessity of taking a holistic approach to your retirement planning, one in which housing choices, financial plans, medical coverage, legal protection and family dynamics are all taken into account and woven together into an interlocking structure we call a LifePlan. With an AgingOptions LifePlan, y0u’ll be able to protect your assets while you age, avoid becoming a burden to those closest to you, and escape the trap of being forced into institutional care against your will.

We invite you to learn more about a LifePlan from AgingOptions. Join Rajiv Nagaich at an AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar coming soon to a location near you. Get all the details about upcoming seminars by clicking here, then register online or call us. It will be our pleasure to serve you as your retirement planning guides.

(originally reported at

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