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The Benefits of Shared Housing for Seniors in Senior Living Communities

By Nirali DesaiNovember 17, 2021
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As seniors age, living costs while living alone can become increasingly difficult to handle. Finding a senior roommate for your loved one can help them combat loneliness and save money. According to Shelane Barrett, national account manager at A Place for Mom, shared housing for seniors can help make senior living an affordable option when it wasn’t before.

While working for a senior living community, Barrett says she once dealt with a situation where a young senior wasn’t happy in her current community. The woman toured Barrett’s community and loved it but realized she couldn’t afford the rent. The next day, the woman brought in a friend from her current community. They both loved the new community and decided to share a two-bedroom apartment there. They were getting more — better amenities, meals, cheaper utilities, better access to transportation, higher quality activities — for less than what they were paying to live separately in their old community.

Living with a senior roommate comes with several benefits. From reduced costs to companionship, shared housing can make senior living easier and more enjoyable in numerous ways. Continue reading to learn about the benefits of home sharing for seniors and also discover tips on how to help your loved one navigate a healthy relationship with a senior roommate.

Shared housing and how it works in senior living communities


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Shared housing is a living arrangement between unrelated or non-partnered people. Seniors can find a roommate in senior living communities in order to take advantage of the mutual benefits available by sharing an apartment.

For older adults contemplating home sharing in senior living, there are several options to consider. If your senior prefers company throughout the day, they can choose to share a semi-private floor plan. Some senior living communities offer semi-private suites with room dividers, while others allow residents to share the suite. Semi-private suites, also known as shared or companion suites, are more common in assisted living and memory care communities, so keep that in mind if your loved one chooses an independent living community.

For seniors who prefer to have some personal space, they can choose to share a two-bedroom apartment. And, if potential conflict is a worry, senior living communities have staff members and caregivers available to help roommates live together harmoniously.

Living with a roommate doesn’t have to mean compromising privacy. Most independent living and assisted living communities offer residents an option for their own full bathroom and walk-in closet in two-bedroom apartments. Memory care communities provide room sharing options to help combat effects of loneliness and improve emotional health, and these communities may also offer options for private rooms, bathrooms, and closets.

Senior roommates can help you avoid isolation

Approximately 28% of seniors 65 and older live alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The CDC also states that older adults face an increased risk for loneliness and social isolation due to living alone. Seniors who live together ultimately live a healthier lifestyle through companionship, according to research by Traverse, a social research firm.

According to Traverse’s research, home shares help seniors improve their mood, reduce anxiety, and boost their confidence in mobility. A roommate is essentially a built-in buddy who can help support and enrich your senior’s lifestyle. When your loved one is feeling down or stressed, they always have a friend to go to. Oftentimes, having someone to listen to their stories or rants is all they need to feel better, according to Traverse.

A study conducted by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health shows that sharing your meals with someone can lead to better eating habits and less isolation. Having someone to eat or cook with can prevent seniors from making unhealthy choices or opting for quick meals.

Roommates can agree to systems that help make daily tasks feel easier and more enjoyable. For example, if one roommate cooks, the other can clean up. They can even do the grocery shopping together. Systems like this can help seniors avoid isolation and form lasting bonds.

Shared housing for senior independence and safety

Getting a roommate is an ideal option for seniors who are mainly independent but shouldn’t live alone. Living with a senior roommate can help your loved one remain independent with the added safety of someone always being around to check up on them.

The notion of having people around for support helps seniors feel safe, according to the journal Ageing and Society published by Cambridge University Press. Knowing that someone will help when necessary enables seniors to feel safe in everyday life. Having someone to rely on is important, whether it’s a friend, senior living staff member, or roommate.

Roommates can also help one another by being there to remind each other to take daily medications, call for help if one roommate falls, or simply provide mutual support with daily tasks. Additionally, living alongside other seniors in a senior living community offers social opportunities and diverse programming for your loved one to explore at their leisure.

Save money with a senior roommate

There are several ways to pay for assisted living while saving money. A senior roommate can help make senior living communities an affordable option when they were not before. With a shared apartment, seniors can save money by splitting costs.

Seniors have numerous ways to cut down costs when sharing an apartment. Roommates can choose to split grocery costs, share household supplies, carpool when running errands, and so much more.

“A major pro of senior roommates is reduced costs,” says Nick Chareas, Senior Living Advisor at A Place for Mom. “Sometimes seniors end up saving up to $1,000, or even up to $1,500 monthly.”

In the Chicago area, on average, an independent living one-bedroom unit costs around $3,150 per month, and a two-bedroom unit costs around $4,250 per month. Although sharing a two-bedroom often comes with an added monthly sharing fee of approximately $500 to $1,000, the savings between two people are still there. For example, with a sharing fee of $750, rent for the average two-bedroom would be $5,000 or $2,500 a person. Based on these numbers, roommates could still save $7,800 each year if they choose to share a two-bedroom unit over living alone in a one-bedroom unit.

For assisted living in the Chicago area, a one-bedroom unit costs $5,000 on average, while a two-bedroom unit costs $7,500 per month. The monthly sharing fee at assisted living communities ranges between $1,000 and $1,800. With a sharing fee of $1,400, rent for a two-bedroom would be $8,900 or $4,450 per person. Based on these numbers, roommates could save $6,600 each year when choosing to share a two-bedroom over living alone in a one-bedroom.

These numbers are based on the Chicago area and are not reflective of senior living costs everywhere. The numbers also do not include individual care costs.

How to find a senior roommate

There are challenges to home sharing for seniors, and finding the right roommate is one of the biggest. When a senior chooses to live in a retirement community that uses a senior roommate matching service, they can rest assured knowing that a team of professionals screen each resident.

Assisted living communities often pair up roommates based on a first-come, first-serve basis, according to Chareas. If an individual is looking for a roommate, communities often move the first senior into the apartment while they wait for the next available roommate to move in. Some assisted living and memory care communities pair roommates based on gender alone, while others, like Aegis Living, are more exact and pair roommates based on additional factors like routines, personalities, and interests.

For independent living, it is often up to the senior to find their own roommate. Some senior living communities only offer shared apartments to a resident’s family members and partnered people, so be sure to ask when inquiring across different communities.

According to Barrett, other options for finding a senior roommate include local church or community programs. Still, like dating sites, there is no guarantee that the “matches” your loved one gets will work out, and you should always exert caution when helping your senior look for a roommate.

Finding a roommate who is compatible, trustworthy, and pays their bills on time isn’t necessarily easy. The best bet is to home share with a trusted friend, or at least a friend of a friend. But, even if your loved one shares an apartment with a friend, there can be unexpected drama if they’re not on the same page.

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Ways to get on the same page

If your loved one decides to home share and finds someone they get along with and trust, then it’s important that you talk to them about their expectations and help them set ground rules from the start.

Some important considerations to set “rules” around include:

  • Guests
  • Household duties
  • Kitchen use, including food sharing
  • Parking
  • Pets
  • Privacy
  • Television, radio, phone, and internet use
  • Utility payments and splitting other costs

It can be difficult to set ground rules with someone your loved one barely knows, so caregivers and staff members are there to help in senior living communities.

“Caregivers can work as a buffer for senior roommates. They can help create schedules for roommates to help eliminate conflict,” says Chareas.

For those living together, Chareas suggests setting simple ground rules, like who gets to use the bathroom first in the morning, to avoid future conflict. “If one roommate is an early riser, they can freshen up first every morning,” he suggests.

According to a journal published by Oxford University Press, the biggest challenges of home sharing for seniors include navigating boundaries and discomfort due to unfamiliarity. To fight these challenges and build a strong foundation, roommates can try to make a good first impression, communicate openly, and participate in community events together. If issues still arise, they can try to talk them out or reach out to the senior living community staff to help resolve conflict.

Living with a roommate doesn’t work for everyone, so be cautious if going this route, and always ensure your loved one’s personal needs and safety are put first. For many active older adults, having a roommate is a great way to make retirement savings last longer and get all the fun and excitement they can out of life.

Sources:

Cambridge University Press. “Ageing and Society: To feel safe in everyday life at home – a study of older adults after home modifications.”

Oxford University Press. “Innovation in Aging: More than Just a Room: A Scoping Review of the Impact of Homesharing for Older Adults.”

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. “Eating Alone or Together among Community-Living Older People – A Scoping Review.”

Traverse. “Evaluation of the Homeshare pilots: Final report.”

United States Census Bureau. “Historical Living Arrangements of Adults.”

Author
Nirali Desai

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