Aging Options

Retirees Can Make New Friends, Save Money through Shared Housing

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Aging in place – staying in your own home – may be all the rage, but all too many retirees face a different challenge: aging alone. (We wrote about this phenomenon in this AgingOptions blog post just a few weeks ago.) There are many reasons why this happens, including seniors who are divorced or widowed or who never married. And while living alone is the preference of some, for many others it becomes an unwilling default choice – and not necessarily the best one.

The obvious option, especially for those seniors not yet eager to move into a retirement community, is to avoid isolation by sharing housing with someone else. There are many ways to do this, including some newer concepts such as Airbnb which didn’t exist a few years ago. You’ll find some thought-provoking ideas about shared housing in this recent article from the US News website called “5 Ways to Share Housing in Retirement.” Even if you’ve never considered the idea of living with someone else, it might be time to at least entertain the notion, because, as US News says, “Shared housing can help you make friends and save money – if you can make it work for you.”

The US News article lists five ways you might be able to find a shared-living situation that’s right for you, one that allows you to stay independent and private while enjoying the proven benefits of economy and sociability. The economy part is pretty obvious: for instance, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment typically rents for about 50 percent more than a single unit, which means two can share a larger apartment and each save at least 25 percent on their rent. That can be a huge deal for those on limited income. As for the sociability idea, there’s more to shared housing than just an expanded social life. The US News article says, “Many retirees come home to an empty house, with nothing to do and no one to do it with. Yet there is nothing that correlates more with living a long, healthy life than having good social connections and a supportive circle of friends.” Studies have shown that isolation and loneliness among seniors can be predictive of all sorts of emotional and physical affliction including depression. Sharing a home can be a big preventive step in the right direction.

There are some of the US News suggestions that seem obvious to us, but others may be new to you. For example, many homes have what is often called a mother-in-law suite, complete with its own entrance and kitchen or kitchenette facilities. These can easily be rented to another senior adult without sacrificing anyone’s privacy or independence. What’s more, as many landlords will attest, seniors often make better renters than college students or young adults: quieter, less obtrusive, more predictable and generally more responsible. These days many cities that formerly opposed mother-in-law units by restricting building permits have changed their tune and now encourage these build-outs as a way of handling population growth.

Even if a home lacks a mother-in-law suite, there are other ways to share living space.  You can rent out a room, either on a short-term or long-term basis.  This is one area where the online service Airbnb has transformed the landscape: we know of one retirement-age couple with two Airbnb tenants in their large Pacific Northwest home. Before you take this step, though, make sure you consider what having someone else living down the hall could mean, especially when it comes to shared spaces like the bathroom and the kitchen. Also you need to keep careful track of expenses and revenue because this type of arrangement could likely impact your income tax liability. Another way to stay in your home, or help someone else stay in theirs, is to establish a more comprehensive shared-living arrangement in which most of the house is shared and household chores are a mutual responsibility. Obviously this requires clear guidelines in advance – otherwise conflicts will almost inevitably result.

Sharing housing with your adult child is another perfectly viable option for seniors who don’t want to age alone. As US News puts it, “Having children at home got a bad reputation during the recession, mostly because the children didn’t want to be there. But there is a time-honored tradition of children staying home until they are married or even after they are married.” So this idea deserves another look.  “If you get along with your child and share many of the same daily habits,” says the article, “there’s nothing wrong with two generations living under the same roof.”

Making the right housing choices, appropriate to your age, health and finances, is a vital part of solid retirement planning. But it is hardly the only part. Here at AgingOptions we practice a unique brand of retirement planning called LifePlanning, one which not only helps you choose the right housing but which also protects your assets through sound financial planning, protects your health through careful attention to insurance needs, and protects your estate through solid legal preparation. We even consider how best to communicate with your family to make certain they understand and support your wishes as you age. Your LifePlan becomes the blueprint that will guide you as you build the secure and fruitful retirement you’ve always hoped for. It’s easy to take the next step and learn more: attend a free LifePlanning Seminar in your area. Click on the Upcoming Events tab and register online, or contact us during the week. Come join us at a LifePlanning Seminar soon!  We assure you, you’ll be very glad you did.

(originally reported at


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