Homesharing for Seniors

By the Society of Certified Senior Advisors

In 2006, the Census Bureau found that 7.4 million women and 2.7 million men
age 65 and older were living alone. Even more significant, 12 percent of those
women and seven percent of those men were living in poverty. At a time when
income may be decreasing because of retirement and when expenses could be increasing
because of medical bills, ‘match-up programs’ are helping seniors
find others to share their homes or find a room to rent in another’s home
to offset expenses, allowing the seniors to remain independent and ‘age
in place’.

While not limited to just seniors, more and more seniors are experiencing benefit
from this arrangement. The benefits of homesharing include continued independence,
rental income, household help, transportation, safety, companionship, and peace
of mind for the senior and often times their families.

A senior who offers their home as a rental can request that the renter pay
rent only or ask that services, such as shopping, transportation or cleaning,
be provided by their renter in lieu of a portion of rent money depending on
their needs. The price of the rent is negotiated based on these requests.

When Lynn Harnett, contacted the Center of Concern in Park Ridge, IL, she was
looking for a companion for her mother who could act as eyes and ears for the
family. Her mother was capable of living alone but needed some assistance because
she didn’t drive anymore. The woman she found to rent a room in her mother’s
home was in her 50’s and was glad to provide help with errands, plus offered
companionship.

“It has just worked out so well for all of us,” Harnett says.

When Alternative Living for the Aging in Hollywood, California matched up Jean
Mathison, an 80 something retired interior designer, with Muriel Delomeaus,
a 50 something French masseuse, both women had specific needs. Jean needed someone
to help with rent, light housework, errands and a bit of supervision given a
previous fall. Muriel needed an inexpensive place to live. Both women have been
rewarded with not only getting what they needed but companionship and support
they could not have found elsewhere.

“I’m living in a wonderful environment with a wonderful lady,’
said Muriel.

The match-up process varies from agency to agency, but generally the steps
that the applicant will go through are:

  1. Applying – Both home provider and home seeker submit an application.
  2. Interview – In-person interviews with a program representative for
    both home provider and home seeker increases the chances of a good match.
  3. Home visit – The program representative will visit the home being
    offered.
  4. Check references – Home seekers may be asked for references and fingerprints
    in an effort to check the background of that individual.
  5. Match-up – When the program representative feels there is a good match,
    the prospective housemates meet, typically at the home, to decide for themselves
    it they are a good match.
  6. Homeshare agreement – At the time that both home provider and home
    seeker are ready to become roommates, a homeshare agreement is drawn up. This
    is a legal
    document that lines out the rental price, services to be provided by the renter,
    and other stipulations in the arrangement.
  7. Mediation services – Some match-up programs will provide mediation
    services if needed between the home provider and the renter after the match
    is final.

The homeshare agreement is an important legal document which includes information
such as rent amount, due date, types of services to be provided and the hours
when the services are required, terms and notice for withdrawing from the program,
and any restrictions such as if smoking or pets are not allowed. Even if a match-up
program is not being used to find a roommate, all living arrangements of this
type should include some kind of legally enforceable homeshare agreement. An
attorney would be able to help with this.

While there are over 100 match-up programs in the United States, not every
state has one. Some are fee-based, but many are free to consumers. To locate
match-up programs and homeshare opportunities, these resources may be helpful:

  • National Shared Housing Resource Center – www.nationalsharedhousing.org
  • Local office on aging - www.aoa.gov or www.eldercare.gov
  • Regional housing agencies – Agencies and nonprofits that provide
    housing services.
    These may include names like ‘housing authority’ or ‘housing
    coalition’.

While programs vary in what they offer for match-up services, seniors and their
families are finding that the benefits of homesharing present the opportunity
to stay in their own homes or the home of another person where the needs of
both parties can be met, friendships developed, and an ideal living environment
created.

References
Alternative Living for the Aging – www.alternativeliving.org
Administration on Aging – www.aoa.gov
Credit Union National Association – www.cuna.org
Eldercare Locator – www.eldercare.gov
National Shared Housing Resource Center – www.nationalsharedhousing.org
Nolo Legal Solutions – www.nolo.com
Smart Money – www.smartmoney.com