Co-living is an increasingly popular lifestyle that offers many seniors a satisfying and financially viable way to remain independent longer. It also depends heavily on finding a suitable roommate.
The search begins with thoughtful upfront planning. Follow these tips for identifying the best match!
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.
Two of the largest senior-orienting roommate matching sites are Silvernest.com and Roommates4Boomers.com (for women only).
Also, ask your family and friends for roommate suggestions. They know you and your lifestyle and might know of someone who is potentially a good fit.
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.
Find a roommate who will improve your living experience, not sink it. 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. Specify the financial details
How much will your roommate be expected to pay? Will it be a flat monthly charge or include a percentage of utilities used, including internet and television services?
How will you handle expenses like groceries and household supplies (like paper towels and dish detergent)? Will items and costs be shared?
What about maintenance bills, repairs, yard mowing, snow removal, etc.?
4. Clarify the use of space and household responsibilities
What space is considered private, and which areas of the home will be shared for eating, relaxing, and entertaining? How will you share or split cooking responsibilities, meals, and kitchen cleanup?
Will your roommate have access to storage space? Are any of your small or large appliances off-limits?
Who will be responsible for cleaning chores? Will you split these tasks or take turns? Or will you hire a service and split that bill?
5. 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).
6. Establish mutual guidelines for visitors and pets
In terms of visitors, what are the rules for both parties? Adults only? Children? Grandchildren?
Will there be a time limit on guests? Two days? A week? How much notice should be given before guests arrive?
Are pets okay? Even if neither of you currently have pets, they might be a future consideration.
A written agreement outlining key issues will help both parties understand what’s expected of them.
7. 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.