"Golden Girls"-Type Living Catching On

Remember "The Golden Girls"? The hit '80s sitcom had four women sharing their "golden years" under one roof.

Now, it's an idea whose time is coming, says AARP The Magazine.

Its current issue says many older women have discovered the benefits of living with "roomies" who aren't relatives.

The magazine gives the reasons, goes into the advantages and disadvantages, and has advice for women thinking of giving that form of group living a whirl.

On The Early Show Wednesday, the magazine's editor, Steve Slon, discussed the emerging mini-trend.

He says the women can be old friends or complete strangers, but a growing number are pooling their resources and sharing housing. It's still a small percentage of older boomers, he adds, but some 500,000 women are living with a non-romantic partner of the same sex.

And, in an AARP survey, 30 percent of respondents said they would live with a friend, as long as they had privacy.

In addition, Slon observes, there's a small but growing movement of boomers getting together with best friends, building on a big plot of land, and living together.

Motivation for living together, Slon says, is the bottom line. Perhaps, he suggests, a woman is just divorced and needs to take in a tenant in order to stay in her house. Or maybe the husband has died and the widow decides to get rid of the marital home. She has cash from the house and possibly retirement funds, and decides to share resources with a dear old friend.

Slon points out that the "first and most obvious" advantage is the financial one. Then, "on a more subtle level, there's the companionship. Loneliness is a big problem for older people. Men die younger, and you can be a widow for a long time. You discover you have a girlfriend in a similar situation living two states away, and you decide to share resources. For some shy people, this kind of arrangement helps bring them out of their shell and makes them more social. It's hard to make friends when you're on your own, but easier for two people."

While the magazine's piece focuses on women, unrelated men live together, as well. Think "Odd Couple"! But Slon says statistics show more women do it than men: Men don't live as long as women, and single men are likely to have earned more over their lifetime and need shared housing less. So, he says, "It's women who need to figure out how to live out their bonus years."

As for tips from Slon:

BEFORE OPENING YOUR HOME:

Check the legalities: If you want to rent a room you need to make sure that zoning doesn't prohibit it. And, when you advertise, be careful. It may be discriminatory to advertise for a particular gender.

Screen like a pro: Even if it's someone you know, it just makes good sense to check their credit record and make sure they have the financial wherewithal to support themselves. It's better to deal with this before problems happen.

Get it in writing: More common sense — just put all the details in writing. The rent is this much, and it's due on this date. It really protects both parties."

WHEN MOVING IN WITH SOMEONE:

Check references: Again, this is just common sense. You want to know who you're living with. Ask neighbors.

Read the fine print: This applies to any written agreement. Know what you're getting into."

Test the relationship: You might want to have trial basis for a few months. It might sound like an ideal situation, but until you're in it, you won't know. So, agree to try it out and see if it works for both of you.

To read the entire article in AARP The Magazine, click here.

To see the Early Show segment, .
  • Brian Dakss

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