If you are a woman over the age of 50 you probably know the statistics: across the industrialized world, women will live as much as 10 years longer than men. Even if you don’t lose your spouse to divorce or early death, human genetics predict years, if not decades, of being alone.
The “Golden Girls” living arrangement is becoming increasingly popular. Named after the 1980s sitcom about four post-menopausal women sharing a home, the idea of rooming with friends is catching on. Women who find themselves facing ten to 15 years or more alone are testing the waters of communal living for the first time since college. Unwilling to go “backward” in life to spartan apartment living, it makes financial sense to maintain a lifestyle standard with a little help from your friends. Renting a room shaves the edge off of finances and ensures a built-in friend with whom to binge on Netflix or share a holiday meal.
A change in our culture works in favor of this friendship-based living arrangement: Baby Boomer women have benefitted from the choice to work outside the home and have lives independent of housework and raising children. Decades of life outside the home have resulted in deep and lasting friendships. These friendships have spanned marriage and divorces, the birth and graduation of children, the changing of diapers and jobs, the marriages and burying of loved ones. Why wouldn’t they evolve into last-years roommates?
Here are some tips to keep in mind if you are considering a “Golden Girls” living arrangement:
- This isn’t college. Your roommates (like you) have decades of doing things “their way.” Does their way mesh with your way? It’s hard to tell a 62-year-old that running the shower for 11 minutes before you get in is wasteful.
- Try to limit the arrangement to the number of bathrooms in the home. We are grown-ups. Even the closest friends want their own bathroom space. If you have roommates agreeable to share, the bathroom deserves its own set of rules for space sharing.
- Maybe the reason you love your bestie so much is that you only see her a day a week. Can you live with this person without sacrificing your friendship?
- Put it in writing. While you don’t want the document to be hard-edged and demanding, think of it as discussion points. Who does the cleaning and are groceries shared? Are romantic partners allowed … overnight? Pets allowed? Smoking? Are you a chatty Kathy or early morning grump? Shared meals or grab and go?
- Set minimum standards of cleanliness for common areas: your definition of clean might not be hers.
- Are the kids allowed? How often is the teen daughter going to be overnight and are her friends welcome? Son is home from college for a month and needs a place to stay? Are these short-term intrusions welcome?
- Consider a 6-month trial period at the end of which all parties can come together and decide whether to continue the arrangement.
- Speak up. Making long term arrangements with the person you will spend months with is not the time to “be nice” and hope for the best. Make sure rules of the home are clearly understood and enforced. Have set times for communication until the house gets its “rhythm.”
Where do you find these roommates? Ask around a trusted circle: church, clubs, civic groups. While there are on-line postings for older roommates (www.seniorhomeshares.com is one), caution is still the rule. If you own the space to be shared, you will be expected to set the initial rules: do your research and have your lease agreement ready. If you are the one looking for space, make sure you speak up about your preferences. Better an awkward conversation than a miserable living arrangement.
This Blog is written by Kathy Chiero, Lead Agent for The Kathy Chiero Group. Thinking of Buying? Get a copy of my free book “Ten Ways to Win in a Challenging Market” Visit us a OurOhioHome.com Ready to sell? Contact us for a no-obligation analysis of the value of your home.