Real-life "Golden Girls" typify trend

Modern-day Golden Girls: From left, Gaya Earlandson, Mirren McConnell, April Reiss and Sherry Vaughn. CBS

The "Golden Girls" ruled the TV airwaves in the late '80s. And today, just outside Asheville, N.C., fiction has become reality.

On "The Early Show," Michelle Miller reported laughter rules at the Lotus Lodge -- what they've named their home -- where 58-year-old Gaya Earlandson, 68-year-old April Reiss, 64-year-old Sherry Vaughn and 56-year-old Mirren McConnell all live and pay rent.

Together, they're the real-life Golden Girls.

Pictures: Betty White through the yearsPictures: Bea Arthur 1922-2009Pictures: Rue McClanahan 1934-2010Pictures: "Golden Girl" Getty

Earlandson owns the home, but these "Golden Girls" aren't just roommates -- they've chosen to live together in community to avoid isolation as they age.

They're part of a growing trend. In the past few years, Miller reported, the number of single women over age 45 who are living with non-relatives has jumped 15 percent. That's more than one million women sharing a home, and they're doing it for both economic and social reasons.

Vaughn said, "I'm learning about ways to be healthier as I cook with these ladies. She does yoga. She does Tai Chi, she can teach me some of that."

Miller asked, "It's like summer camp?"

Vaughn laughed and nodded.

Once perfect strangers, they've clearly become fast friends, with each coming to Asheville from different places, for different reasons.

Reiss, a recent retiree, didn't want to live alone. Vaughn moved to be closer to her first grandson.

McConnell came looking for a new beginning. After the break-up of her long-term relationship, McConnell was left to find a new place to live.

McConnell said, "I had enough to get me through maybe three or four months of rent and food."

That's when she joined the Lotus Lodge community. Miller said it's a move that's helped her both financially and emotionally.

Miller asked, "Without this, do you ever wonder, 'Where would I be?'"

McConnell said, "I do. I had no other options. It had to work."

Thankfully, it did work -- not just for McConnell, but for all the women. They want seniors out there who're feeling alone to know the benefits of living in community.

Earlandson said, "A lot of older people are shoved off to the side, and they don't have much say so about what what's going on. We've created a context here in which we are important."

It's something they say is missing from the traditional nursing home.

McConnell said, "I wanna be in a different place where I'm choosing."

That choice has already paid off for 64-year-old Vaughn who fell and broke her hip, arm and leg.

Vaughn said, "I had a arm immobilizer, so I couldn't lift anything. I'm one-handed and the other hand is using a cane."

Without hesitation, the women rallied to support her.

Vaughn said of the situation, "I didn't have to go to my son's house, and he had no choice. I had a choice."

Josh Vaughan, her son, told CBS News, "It's definitely a win-win situation. You are able to support your family member, but they also have their own supports. They have their own network. I think it's a great idea for senior women aging, senior men, either way."

Just like the sitcom, Miller concluded, these women are aging together as a group, having fun, and showing no signs of slowing down in their golden years to come.

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