Generally speaking, people need companionship. For seniors, companionship in the form of co-habitation can also open a practical pathway for remaining independent, preserving financial resources, and avoiding social isolation. The popular television sitcom “The Golden Girls,” featuring four older women—three widows and a divorcee—is perhaps the most familiar example of a seniors-living arrangement. The program is also a hit with viewers who are one or two generations younger than the cast. Interestingly, in recent years, co-living has emerged as a popular lifestyle choice for many 20-somethings, who embrace the opportunity to eliminate long-term leases and be less “tied” to a specific location. For example, companies like Common, Quarters, and We Live offer furnished dormitory-style rooms in prime urban locations, often geared to technology professionals and digital nomads. These units aren’t cheap, by most peoples ‘standards, but the residents enjoy extensive amenities and easy opportunities to develop social connections’-living may also be an attractive option for some of your clients, ages 50+.You can use the information included in this issue of The SRES® Professional to help them explore this approach to active adult living and aging in place. Typically, seniors who implement co-living are homeowners who desire additional income and companionship. On the flip side, renters can reduce their housing costs and enjoy a higher quality of life by seeking out a co-living arrangement.
Co-Living versus Co-Housing
While co-living and co-housing are both considered intentional communities, there are important distinctions. In a co-living arrangement, people without family ties choose to cohabitate in a single dwelling. Typically, each resident has a private bedroom (or a bedroom and bathroom suite), but other rooms, including the kitchen, dining room, living room, and laundry space, are considered common areas.
In contrast, in a co-housing community, each individual, couple, or family has an independent living unit (single-family homes, condos, or apartments). Residents share spaces that are located outside their homes, including game rooms, commercial kitchens, pools, libraries, meeting and conference rooms, activity spaces, and fitness rooms.
Co-Living May Improve Seniors’ Circumstances
Lack of affordable housing is an obstacle that can hit the senior population particularly hard. Plus, as the number of senior households continues expanding to unprecedented levels, it’s a problem that will only get worse. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (JCHS)1, over the next two decades (ending 2038), households in their 80s will be the fastest-growing age group. During that time, the share of households age 65 and older will increase from 26percent (2018) to 34 percent (2038). Many of these households already face cost burdens. (See map. To drill down to your local MSA and view differences by age or among renters versus owners, visit the online, interactive map here.
Meanwhile, the cost of living in a senior community continues to escalate. For example, according to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey 20193, the U.S. median monthly cost of assisted living is $4,051 and is expected to rise to $5,608 by 2030.Many seniors are not going to be in a financial position to select traditional living arrangements and care routes, even if they sell their family home to help finance it. The proceeds won’t last long enough. Since a financial squeeze is imminent for many individuals, creative and affordable solutions may be in high demand. Co-living offers an option to “rent out” one or more bedrooms in a currently owned home, allowing seniors to stay put longer, reduce living expenses, and preserve their assets.
Co-living can help counter the typical age-related narrowing of experiences, freedom, autonomy, and adventure. It can encourage a new way of thinking and living that is deeply fulfilling and financially accessible.
Sharing household responsibilities can lessen the load, especially if the housemates complement each other’s physical strengths and weaknesses. For instance, if one resident can’t drive, but another can, the ability to handle errands, grocery shopping, and similar tasks extends. Likewise, the person who drives may not be able to stand for long periods in the kitchen, while the housemate who can’t drive has no difficulty cooking.
One person may hate to dust but doesn’t mind doing dishes. Constructing a co-living group that complements each individual will extend the time everyone will be able to age in place and stay active and independent.
Fewer seniors own their own homes outright these days. They are more likely to have a mortgage or even a second mortgage and may have consumer debt too. Thirty-years ago, 24 percent of homeowners aged 65–79 still carried a mortgage. In 2016, 46 percent did, with a median balance of $77,000.4Co-living can help a homeowner afford to stay in their home, while also reducing costs for seniors who rent. It can be an excellent way to retain a quality of life and standard of living, despite of the potential for income to plummet upon retirement.
Sharing space means dividing up utility costs and home maintenance expenses. Seniors may also be able to pool their needs for other services and negotiate a lower price on everything from meal preparation and grocery deliveries, to household cleaning and possibly even home health and physical therapy services.
3. Psychological and Health
Multiple studies5 have found that health and well-being are acutely social. Loneliness is one aspect of aging in place that co-living can help remedy. Researchers have found that loneliness can be just as harmful as obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes per day, shortening an individual’s life by 15 years. In part, this is because loneliness triggers the release of stress hormones associated with lowered resistance to infection, elevated blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease, and even cancer. Likewise, social isolation can accelerate cognitive decline.
A sense of belonging and community can be nurtured with scheduled co-living events like “movie night” or “game night,” as well as spending time together preparing and enjoying meals. By striking a balance between together time and time for privacy and solitude, residents can enjoy the best of both worlds.
Any time people live together, there are opportunities for conflict. Housemate situations can be difficult at any age, but cognitive and mobility issues can compound the situation. A written, mutually beneficial rental agreement is useful for avoiding problems. The homeowner may feel possessive about household contents and daily routines. In contrast, a new renter—especially one who has left their own house to become a renter in someone else’s—may feel they have lost autonomy and control of their environment. If a written agreement is not in place, changes in health and mobility may leave a more able-bodied resident feeling that they have become another resident’s primary caregiver. This is especially likely if there is a sudden or unexpected change in circumstances. Other potential pitfalls can be addressed by utilizing a thorough interview process, a criminal background check, and a credit check. It’s better to be cautious than end up with a situation that causes seniors to isolate themselves in their rooms to avoid housemate conflicts. Encourage prospective roommates to institute a “trial period” of two weeks to two months to see how well everyone gets along, after which either side can decide against the match. No harm, no foul
THE 5 M’S OF PREVENTING CO-LIVING CONFLICTS
Create a written agreement that outlines who pays for what and when, how bills will be divided, and what happens when new household services or supplies are needed. Messy Individuals have different tolerance for clutter and dirt. Reach an agreement that keeps both sides happy. More People or Pets Outline a policy on guests and pets before specific situations arise. Will any pets be allowed? How often can residents entertain overnight guests, and what notification (if any) should be given to other residents? Mitigate Scheduling Conflicts Create entertaining guidelines to avoid situations where one resident’s plans to have people over for a party, a meeting, or a game night might conflict with another resident’s plans. Manage Ownership and Privacy Issues Some people need more privacy
than others. Written agreements can help prevent friction, as will front-end determinations of what’s a personal possession versus a household item.
Co-living is an increasingly popular lifestyle that offers seniors a satisfying and financially viable way to remain independent longer—but also depends heavily on finding a suitable roommate.
5 Steps for Finding a Good Housemate
1. Don’t Limit Yourself
Consider looking outside your age range. Depending on the individual, a college student with a job and a studious nature may be a good fit. You might want to offer regular home-cooked meals in exchange for their efforts on cleaning, yard chores, or running errands. Alternately, a business professional who is seldom home, but needs calm and quiet when they are home may be a perfect fit for your lifestyle. Or someone who travels often and needs pet care while they are away.
2. Seek Compatibility
Look for someone who is financially stable, shares some of your interests, has a similar lifestyle, and enjoys the same level of cleanliness (or chaos). This will help you avoid the most common roommate arguments. If you have physical limitations, select a roommate with different restrictions so that you can help one another. Choose someone who compliments your strengths and weaknesses. A poor choice may
result in less interaction and more loneliness, so be sure to agree to a “trial” period, for everyone’s sake.
3. Discuss Personal Preferences
Privacy expectations and lifestyle preferences should be discussed and agreed upon. For example, if one person is a night owl and the other an early riser, the arrangement may work flawlessly (to allow each other some alone time). Or, you may clash with one another (if one person blasts the television or bangs pots and pans while the other is trying to sleep).
4. Protect Yourself
Meet potential roommates for the first time in a public place (get coffee and chat), to gauge your compatibility before inviting them to see your home. If you do like them and want to show the home, be
sure, a friend or family member is at your place when you invite a potential roommate over for the first time. Get references from previous roommates or consider a background check and a credit check before inviting someone you don’t know to live in your home. If renting, add the roommate’s name to the lease or on a sublease. Put any agreements you make in writing.
It can be delightful to live with a well-selected roommate. Don’t forget to relish the company, appreciate your differences, and work together to experience a better life than either of you could have
enjoyed on your own.
Reach out to me if you would like to explore the idea of Senior Co-Living.
Teresa.firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-876-9552
Count on me to guide you through the process of co-ownership with expertise and ease.
Joyful living for all!
Realtor - Managing Broker
Teresa Barthol -Managing Broker with eXp Realty Seattle. Brings 22 plus years’ experience to consult with clients about real estate in the 3rd and 4th quarters of their lives. . With longevity in Real Estate Teresa loves to share her optimistic problem solving skills, creative out of the box thinking along with her enthusiasm for great outcomes. “Believe,” she will say, your desires in life will be realized. Teresa focuses on Lifestyles to Live within the four walls you call home.
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