Women having tea in kitchen

Senior House Sharing Is on the Rise

Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia. Do these names sound familiar? They’re the characters from the hit TV comedy The Golden Girls whose adventures we enjoyed 30 years ago. Well, the time for older women (and men) to share a house with roommates has come again, but this time in real life.

Bonnie Moore found herself alone at age 63 after she and her husband split up. They had just finished remodelling their home, and now here she was with a dream house and a mortgage she couldn’t afford.

Then the recession hit. Moore was stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place: She couldn’t sell up and downsize, and she couldn’t risk defaulting. Her solution? Home sharing.

So in 2008, Moore founded her first Golden Girl Networks home in her house, where she still lives with several housemates. Realizing that many other single women were in similar circumstances, in 2014 Moore launched her house sharing online database for homeowners and roommates, the Golden Girls Network. Today, it’s one of several online house sharing online services for older people.

“There’s almost a crisis where women are ending up single over the age of 50 and not expecting it,” Moore says. “Middle-age divorce is an epidemic. It’s a statistic that people don’t talk about very much, but it’s out there.”

According to projections by the Joint Center for Housing Studies, the number of people over the age of 75 living alone is set to nearly double—from 6.9 million in 2015 to 13.4 million in 2035. Many seniors will have limited financial resources for housing, and women will make up nearly 75 percent of this group.

That’s just one reason why house sharing among older people is on the rise.

The Upside to Having a Housemate

The biggest advantage to house sharing is cost-sharing. If you have one housemate paying half of your rent or 50 percent of the costs of home ownership, your Social Security check will go that much further. Likewise, if your rent is getting too high, you can opt to move into someone else’s house. But besides cost sharing, there are other benefits, too.

Help. If you need help at home as well as extra income, you can opt for a bartering arrangement— reduced rent for services provided by a roommate, such as yard work, shopping or transportation. If you’re healthy and fit, you can take advantage of this type of low-rent arrangement.

Companionship. Whether you’re sharing your own house or moving into someone else’s, house sharing can decrease your cost of living; it can also help you guard against loneliness. “It’s nice to come home, open the door and have someone say, ‘How was your day?’” Moore says. Even if roommates are off in their rooms, you know that someone else is in the house or will be walking in the door soon. Each living situation is different, and sharing runs the gamut from housemates who become friends and socialize to others who have more of a landlord-tenant relationship. It depends on personal preferences, daily schedules and personalities. But even more distant roomies usually tend to get together for a potluck meal on a fairly regular basis.

Health & Safety. We laugh at the TV commercial, but living with a roommate can mitigate the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” scenario. Roommates not only help each other through medical crises, they also notice smaller physical changes in each other and can step up. Debra DeWitz, a retired social worker who has several roommates, calls it “sharegiving,” that extra support that roommates naturally give each other, often in ways they couldn’t anticipate when they first met.

How to Find a Housemate

It can take anywhere from a month to two or three to find a housemate, depending on how flexible you’re willing to be with your personal criteria and geographic radii.

Here are three sites that match older people who want to share.

The Golden Girls Network

This nationwide site’s database has some1,500 members who pay a $39 fee for six months’ access. Members create a detailed profile, then search the database to find potential housemates. Most of the self-service network’s members are between the ages of 50 and 70. Matches are usually between two people, but there are also some multiple-housemate listings.

Senior HomeShares

This is a national, free online matching database. Founder and CEO Stephanie Heacox realized the need for her service several years ago when she and her sisters were long-distance caregivers for their mother who could no longer live alone.

Launched in 2015, the site currently has more than 600 members ranging in age from their 50s through early 90s, with the majority in their mid to late 60s. The site’s users are 60 percent women and 40 percent men.

The business uses a matching system modeled on online dating sites. Plus, it offers some user-friendly features to help those who are not experienced or comfortable searching for a roommate online, including the option to add a “helper” for your account—a family member or friend who becomes a co-user and can assist in filling out the profile, and who you can designate to receive copies of all “match” emails. Customer service is by phone, email and/or live chat, and is staffed by people 55 and older.


This newcomer charges a fee to homeowners (renters can use the service too), but your search is free if you’re looking to move into someone’s house. Like Senior HomeShares, the site uses a matching tool to find compatible housemates. The service verifies users by checking ID and for homeowners, it will provide background checks of potential housemates (people looking to rent a room pay a fee for a background check if the homeowner requests one). Silvernest can also draw up leases and collect rents. Because the service is fairly new, it hasn’t expanded across the country yet. Top locations are in Colorado, California and Florida.

Regional Homeshare Programs

Some local programs exist  that do all the heavy-lifting for you. An example is HomeShareVermont that’s been in business since 1982. The nonprofit charges a one-time match fee ranging from $60 to $500, based on income. After you submit your application, the program’s staff interview you in person, do five background checks, find potential matches and help both parties with a Match Agreement. The program offers continuing support if issues arise.

What Makes for a Good Match?

We asked Moore and Heacox—both longtime surveyors of the senior house sharing scene—for advice. They both say that successful roommates are flexible and willing to compromise. Being able to discuss issues, large or small, is key. Keeping a positive attitude and starting from the mindset that “this is going to work” encourages smooth living arrangements.

On the flip side, not everybody is fun to live with, Heacox says. Moore has run into a few interpersonal issues with roommates and more than once has had to ask a roommate who isn’t working out to move.

Little things matter. Moore tells a story about a roommate who moved in and immediately decided she was going to clean and rearrange the kitchen:

“I like to save those little wire ties from loaves of bread because I use them in my gardening. I had a whole pile of them I’d saved—she threw them all out. She said, ‘Oh that’s just trash!’ To me, that was overstepping. I have no problem if somebody wants to clean out the drawers, but ask me first.”

And while companionship is often a big plus of house sharing, Moore cautions that friendship with roommates can become “a bit murky.”

Explore More Resources

The National Shared Housing Resource Center is a clearinghouse that provides information, referrals to local agencies, programs and guidelines on finding a housemate. The site offers a book, “Consumer’s Guide to Home Sharing” ($10). A written manual and guide for house sharers are also available for purchase.

This AARP article has two helpful sidebars: “What to Look for in a Housemate” and “Home Sharing Do’s and Dont’s.”

Nolo, a DIY legal site, has an article with an overview about how homeshare programs work, the benefits and how to find them.

Common sense procedures for online safety during a roommate search are available via Senior HomeShares here.

Moore’s book, “How to Start a Golden Girls Home,” is available for purchase on the website ($14.99 paperback or $9.99 Kindle).

NOTE:  Senior Planet is an open forum and offers articles for information only. We welcome comments from readers, but can’t be a  go-between for readers who wish to contact each other via email for any reason.  Since it is impossible to vet every commenter, Senior Planet’s policy is not to publish or share commenters emails  for any reason, even if requested.   

  • Cheryl Kitter

    I too live on a very low fixed income due to a disability AND I have a dog. She used to be my Service Dog but I have since “Retired” her since she’s getting old and has started having seizures. She still assists me and is the best companion I could ask for but I think she deserves to live out what few years she has now doing what her breed was bred to do. She’s a Lab so for the past year her and I have visited with friends who live near Lakes and woods and she now gets to run and swim and do her thing.
    As for myself, I had to get rid of my home due to unforeseen circumstances and for the past five years have lived in an income based Apartment complex.
    This place has sold to a Company who is doing away with that program and nothing in my area or surrounding that is available or affordable. When I look online under “Low income” or “Income based Housing” lots comes up but Pets are excluded and rent is way out of my league. Senior “affordable” Housing in Michigan starts at 1200.00 per MONTH. That’s more that what my Mortgage payment used to be. I don’t know how they expect us Seniors to live. I thought of doing just this, advertising for a roomie but thought, “Where do I begin?” “How do I know who to trust?” The questions are endless.
    I’m a responsible 65 year old Woman with Three grown Children and Four Granddaughter’s. I would stay in Michigan if I could find a suitable match but don’t have many resources. I pay my bills on time, don’t have much debt, and like a clean home.
    Any suggestions??

  • L Villa

    Seems like many people want connections to find a place or have a place but no where to connect. The sites presented here have no place in my area so not helping most people,

    • seniorplanet

      Senior Planet does not offer house sharing services. Please check the information and links in the article. Also please do not include your contact information or personal information in your comments.

      • Kimberly Enoch

        Yes I am interested in homeshare, I’m looking to move in a week, so I would need a space that would be available in this time frame. In the Roanoke VA area. Thank you.

    • Nick

      Hi michele. I own a small ranch near albuquerque new mexico.

      Looking to share my home. Reduced rent for ranch help

      Im 60 . fit. Sane. Liberal. Sincere

  • AJ

    Hi im AJ in michigan,the housing cost in town is crazy.northern mi,if you are retired or on disability you can not afford the cost of a nice place.Then when you are up front about being a lesbian, you hear im not that way.Or I hear im looking for someone my age.The low income housing list,Been on it for over a yr.It would be nice to live with other lesbians or gay friendly roommates,instead of this ones gayer then the last one.Rent was set at amount and all utilities included.The I was moving in(boxes in hand,movers just left).landlord says you dont mind paying for cable?will how much is it?It would be 50.00 more each month.I said no! Now I have bigger ploblem the the roommate.not two months into this,now I’m to pay utilities also.needing to move in traverse city mi.This is a great placeto try and find nicer place.AJ

  • Susan Citro

    I am an 86-year-old woman in good health and living in my home on Long Island in Mineola for 55 years. Losing my husband six years ago has been tough and I think that it’s time for me to have some more companionship here in my home. I am willing to except a companion with for low monthly rent. Naturally it would need to be the right person for this to work out. If you have any interest in sharing my home please let me know.

    • Gigi

      Hello Ms Citro,
      Just came accross your message…as I am looking for a room in New York to move back to
      Actually living in Florida, I am 75 years old, I work a couple days a week in retail.
      I would like to know if you actually need someone to share your space with?
      Willing to provide you all types of information about me if you’re interested
      My name is Gigi

    • editor

      Sorry, but Senior Planet doesn’t offer this service or make the connection you ask. Please use the resources in the article, and good luck.
      the editors
      PS Never list your phone number on an open website.

      • Maria Sitaras

        Hi my name is Maria I am 62 i grew up in Greece with good values. I live in adult gated community I have my house for sale with a partner And I am looking by my self to move to NY because my daughter lives there with my grandchildren so I can be closer to them and see them more often.

  • Bonnie Manister-Lesser

    I’m a retired born & bred NYC business woman- writer for Rolls-Royce-
    advertising & marketing for NY Metro + Recruitment advertising for Clinical Trials-Yale, Robt Wood
    Johnson female studies & more).
    Spent close to fifteen years retired & enjoying life
    in the Carolinas & just came back up to New York/Ct to live. Looking for a place-preferably
    in NYC, Westchester or early-in Connecticut to share & though not as much money as I had-
    there are considerable financial perks for right situation.

    I’m a senior in my 70’s & hope to find those interested/interesting seniors out there with
    some space in your home/apartment you’d like to rent out.

    Not sure how this works to get a reply- but I’d love them.

    Thank you.

  • Joanna Johnson

    Hi I live in Los Angels Ca. is there a senior planet here, that I could get contact with?
    I am a senior citizen, 70 years old, I live on Social Security, and still work as a caregiver.
    where I am at now , renting room, the family is renovating the house, and may sell.
    so I need a place soon.

    • Michelle riddle

      Aru an I’ve lived in Florida for 3 years would love toovr back
      Single and 57.I would live to share your home witj you. I’m in Indiana on a job transfer from FL. Would love the compamioship was marride 35 years. Thank you
      Being alone no fun

  • Raisa

    Is anyone interested in living in Land O Lakes, Florida?
    I am looking for three seniors retired to share my Four Bedrooms home.
    It is located in a very nice and safe gated community.
    Breathtaking view,

  • Dian Dean

    You go girlI live in Ohio and would love to move to the Carolina . I still work part time in a business I have owned for 40+ years as a designer and run my own drapery and upholstery workroom.use to golf 6 days a week and would like to start up again. I would need a work room that would accompany my sewing machines, because I love doing what I do

  • Jen

    For those who are happy living privately, house sharing would be more difficult. It would require clear communication and a private area. However, for those who wish to have a small group of friends that they can count on, this could be a miracle.
    Every time I watch Golden Girls, I wish that I could be part of them. I currently am 52 and represent Dorothy, the exception being that I’m still married to Stanley, who is slowly dying in front of me. My mother is so used to enjoying being alone, so I never know if I’m invading her privacy.
    I would love to one day know that I’m living with others who don’t want to be alone, but want to support one another, go out to dinner, go with each other to doctor appointments etc. And I’m incredibly happy to know I’m not alone in these thoughts!

  • Annamarie

    Another resource available is my book, Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates., which is on Amazon and here: https://www.sharinghousing.com/idea. Our website is full of information – but I think that the most valuable are the interviews with people who are living in shared housing. http://www.sharinghousing.com/category/real-people-sharing-housing

    It’s really hard to imagine leaving the privacy of living alone to living with other people. I get that. What does it take to actually try it out?
    There are so many excellent reasons for doing it. I believe that by having the companionship of a “home-mate” life can be better, safer and happier. Really.

  • Sherry

    I am planning to start a community home just for ladies (for now) in South Carolina for people who are hopeful about the anti-aging technologies that are now in experimental stages. Please reply if you may be interested. No cats.

    • Diane Scher

      I am very interested in the concept. I live in Charleston SC in a rental home for the last 10 years.

      The owner wishes to sell. Since my income is limited to social security, my only option is to move into low income senior housing, or by miracle to equally share a home with one or few other seniors in SC, ideally in the lowcountry or other. I currently live on James Island near the senior center.
      PS. Since my husband died in 2011, in order to make ends meet, I have rented my furnished second bedroom and bath occasionally to single women of all ages including retirees as a transitional place while they are relocating to Charleston.
      But now, I have to plan on moving by the end of my lease in the Fall or so.

      If I can assist in any way in developing a place that you are proposing, count on me.

      I have an extensive business background in event coordination, public relations, marketing and advertising, organization, strategizing for new small businesses, along with skills as a journalist, artist, and publicist.

      Please keep in touch. Good luck in your establishing your organization. I would like to join your efforts in South Carolina.
      Thank you.

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