The Benefits of Shared Housing for Seniors in Senior Living Communities


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According to Shelane Barrett, former national account manager at A Place for Mom, shared housing for seniors can help make senior living an affordable option when it wasn’t before. While working for a senior living community, Barrett says she experienced a situation where a resident wasn’t happy in her current community. The woman toured Barrett’s community and loved it but realized she couldn’t afford the rent.

The next day, the woman brought in a friend from her current community. They both loved the new community and decided to share a two-bedroom apartment. They were getting more — better amenities, meals, cheaper utilities, access to transportation, higher quality activities — for less than what they were paying to live separately in their old community.

What is shared housing for seniors?

Shared housing is a living arrangement between unrelated or non-partnered people. Seniors often find roommates in senior living communities to enjoy the advantages of sharing an apartment.

How shared housing works in senior living communities

There are typically two options for older adults considering home sharing:

  • Semi-private apartments. If your senior loved one prefers company throughout the day, they can choose to share a semi-private floor plan. These are also known as shared or companion floor plans. Some senior living communities offer semi-private suites with room dividers, while others allow residents to share the suite. Semi-private suites are more common in assisted living and memory care communities, so keep that in mind if your loved one chooses an independent living community.
  • Two-bedroom apartments. Seniors who desire more personal space can choose a two-bedroom apartment to share. If potential conflict is a concern, senior living communities have staff members and caregivers available to help roommates live together harmoniously.

Living with a roommate shouldn’t compromise your loved one’s privacy. Most independent living and assisted living communities offer residents in two-bedroom apartments the option to have their own full-size bathroom and walk-in closet.

Memory care communities provide room sharing options to help seniors combat the effects of loneliness and improve emotional health. These communities may also offer private rooms, bathrooms, and closets.

Benefits of shared housing for seniors

After living independently for so long, your senior loved one may not prefer the idea of having a roommate. But you can help them understand the benefits of shared housing.

Seniors who live together can live healthier lifestyles through companionship because it helps them save money, avoid isolation, and enjoy a balance of independence and safety.


Roommates help seniors save money

Shared apartments allow seniors to save money because they split the cost of the room. If they choose to, roommates can also split grocery costs, share household supplies, carpool when running errands, and so much more.

There are several ways to pay for assisted living, and a senior roommate can make senior living communities an affordable option, especially when they weren’t before.

“A major pro of senior roommates is reduced costs,” says Nick Chareas, a Senior Living Advisor at A Place for Mom. “Sometimes seniors end up saving up to $1,000 or even up to $1,500 monthly.”

Below are the national median starting prices for one-bedroom and two-bedroom units in popular senior living options, based on A Place for Mom’s partner communities.[01]

Independent living Assisted living Memory care
One-bedroom unit $3,500 per month $5,000 per month $6,500 per month
Two-bedroom unit $4,400 per month $6,100 per month $7,500 per month

Among A Place for Mom’s partner communities in the St. Louis area, the median cost of an independent living one-bedroom unit is around $3,600 per month. A two-bedroom unit costs around $4,700 per month.[01] For further context, the median cost of independent living in Missouri is $2,900 per month.[02]

Although sharing a two-bedroom room in an independent living community often comes with an added monthly sharing fee of approximately $500 to $1,000, the savings between two people are still there. For example, with a sharing fee of $750, rent for the average two-bedroom would be $5,450, or $2,725 a person. Based on these numbers, roommates could still save $10,500 each year if they choose to share a two-bedroom unit over living alone in a one-bedroom unit.

For assisted living in the St. Louis area, the median cost of a one-bedroom unit costs around $4,900, while a two-bedroom unit costs $6,600 per month across A Place for Mom’s partner communities.[01] The median cost of assisted living in Missouri is $4,600 per month.[02]

The monthly sharing fee at assisted living communities ranges between $1,000 and $1,800. With a sharing fee of $1,400, rent for a two-bedroom would be $8,000 or $4,000 per person. Based on these numbers, roommates could save $10,800 each year when choosing to share a two-bedroom over living alone in a one-bedroom.

Note: The numbers in this example are based on the St. Louis area and are not reflective of senior living costs everywhere. The numbers also do not include individual care costs, such as personal assistance with hygiene and mealtimes.


Roommates can prevent senior isolation

Senior isolation is a serious concern. Approximately 23% of seniors between the ages of 65 and 74 live alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.[03] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also states that older adults face an increased risk of developing health conditions due to living alone.[04]

Shared housing prevents isolation and improves seniors’ emotional well-being in several ways:[05,06]

  • Enhances mood
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Improves eating habits by sharing meals and cooking together
  • Makes shared daily tasks easier and more enjoyable, such as cleaning and grocery shopping

A roommate is essentially a built-in buddy who can lower the risk of social isolation. When your loved one is feeling down or stressed, they always have a friend to go to. Often, having someone to listen to their stories or rants is all they need to feel better.[05]


Shared housing provides both independence and safety

Getting a roommate is an ideal option for seniors who are mainly independent but shouldn’t live alone. Living with a senior roommate can help your loved one remain independent with the added safety of having someone around to check up on them.

Senior roommates can help each other in the following ways:

  • Provide a feeling of safety by having someone else around
  • Call for help if one roommate falls
  • Provide mutual support with daily tasks
  • Participate in social opportunities together

Tips for navigating senior roommate challenges

It can be difficult to set ground rules with someone your loved one barely knows, so caregivers and staff members are there to offer support in senior living communities.

“Caregivers can work as a buffer for senior roommates. They can help create schedules for roommates to help eliminate conflict,” Chareas says.

For seniors living together, Chareas suggests setting simple ground rules, like who gets to use the bathroom first in the morning, to avoid future conflict. “If one roommate is an early riser, they can freshen up first every morning,” he suggests.

If your loved one decides to live with a roommate they get along with and trust, then it’s important to discuss and set additional expectations early on. Some important considerations to set “rules” around include:

  • Guests
  • Household duties
  • Kitchen use, including food sharing
  • Parking
  • Pets
  • Privacy
  • Television, radio, phone, and internet use
  • Utility payments and splitting other costs

The biggest challenges of home-sharing for seniors include navigating boundaries and experiencing discomfort due to unfamiliarity.[07] To fight these challenges and build a strong foundation, roommates can try the following strategies:

  • Make a good first impression
  • Communicate clearly
  • Participate in community events together
  • Reach out to staff to resolve conflicts if issues still arise

Living with a roommate doesn’t work for everyone, so be cautious if choosing this route. However, for many active older adults, having a roommate is a great way to make retirement savings last longer, while getting more fun and excitement out of life.

How to find a senior roommate

There are challenges to home-sharing for seniors, and finding the right roommate is one of the biggest. Some retirement communities uses a senior roommate matching service, in which a team of professionals screens each resident. However, keep in mind that the matching process depends on the type of senior living community.


Finding a roommate in assisted living and memory care

Assisted living communities often pair up roommates based on a first-come, first-served basis, according to Chareas. If an individual is looking for a roommate, communities often move the first resident into the apartment while they wait for the next available roommate to move in.

Some assisted living and memory care communities pair roommates based on gender alone. Others, like Aegis Living, pair roommates based on additional factors like routines, personalities, and interests.


Finding a roommate in independent living

It’s typically up to the resident to find their own roommate in independent living. Some senior living communities only offer shared apartments to a resident’s family members and partnered people, so be sure to ask when inquiring across different communities.


Other ways to find a senior roommate

According to Barrett, other options for seeking a senior roommate include finding local church or community programs. Similar to dating sites, there’s no guarantee that the “matches” your loved one gets will work out. You should always exert caution when selecting or searching for a roommate.

Finding a roommate who is compatible and trustworthy and pays their bills on time isn’t necessarily easy. The best bet is to home-share with a trusted friend, or at least a friend of a friend. However, even if your loved one shares an apartment with a friend, it’s important to set boundaries.

Contact A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors to visit senior living facilities that match your needs, location, and budget. They can help you explore floor plans, tour available units, and ask questions about roommate  options and costs — all at no cost to your family.

Our senior living touring checklist can also simplify your senior living search by helping you compare communities and organizing your personal notes and observations.

This article originally appeared on APlaceForMom and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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