Dorothy. Rose. Blanche. Sofia. For a lot of people, seeing those four names together immediately conjures up images of a comfortable, fun space dominated by some big female personalities.
More than one viewer watched the hijinks of the women on the show The Golden Girls with the thought, “I hope my senior years are like that.” And more than one woman is making a similar lifestyle happen. (Well, maybe with fewer hijinks).
Aging-in-Place Alone is Hard
A lot of women find themselves single in their senior years. Sometimes it’s because women generally live longer than men and those in heterosexual couples thus tend to outlast their spouses. In some cases, it’s due to senior divorce, which is on the rise. In a few cases, it could be women that never chose to marry at all.
Whatever the reason, it’s common. And it comes with some issues.
Houses Require Work
Single senior women that find themselves needing to maintain a house on their own are now solely in charge of making sure the house stays clean, the lawn gets mowed, appliances that break get fixed, and so on. That’s hard enough for one person to take on at any age, but as aging starts to affect mobility, energy levels, and balance, it can become not only more difficult, but also dangerous.
Living Alone is Expensive
If a single woman is still living in the house that was spacious enough for the whole family, it will get costly. Even if the home is paid off, taxes and maintenance costs can really add up. And buying groceries for one usually doesn’t amount to as good of a deal – things like bread and milk tend to be sold in quantities more befitting a family or at least a couple.
Aging-in-Place Can Get Lonely
A lot of seniors find themselves increasingly cut off from social communities as they get older. Kids live far away. Close friends pass away. And when you lose the ability to safely drive yourself around, it’s easier to stay home alone than to go out and be around people. Loneliness for seniors isn’t just unpleasant, it can be dangerous. Seniors that experience loneliness tend to die younger, have higher blood pressure, and are more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s.
What is the Golden Girls Model?
The Golden Girls model seeks to solve some of these problems by bringing single senior women together as roommates. A woman who hopes to keep the house she owns can rent out the empty rooms to other women. Women who don’t own a home can find someone who does. And those who are tired of the maintenance required in owning a home can sell theirs and become the tenant of another senior.
Roommates are common for young singles, why shouldn’t they be for older ones as well?
The Golden Girls Network helps the senior women interested in roommates find each other. It’s not exclusively for women, men can use the website as well, but its name and marketing makes clear that the website expects women to be its primary users.
To search the website or post a listing, you do need to become a member, which costs $39 for six months. At that point, you can create a detailed profile that tells potential roommates a little about yourself and start browsing the other profiles in your area.
While the Golden Girls Network is the most specialized option for finding senior roommates, it’s not the only safe option you can take. If you’re not sure about that $39 fee, you can try a few other free or cheaper options first.
Asking around amongst your friends and larger social circle could potentially net you roommates that are a good fit. And posting on Facebook (if you have it) can help you look within your immediate social group and their friends first.
The website RoomieMatch.com is a safe way to seek out roommates that are compatible with you in a number of ways. You can specify if you’re looking for roommates over 50, if you’d prefer to stick with one gender or the other, and the kind of price range you have in mind.
You can join for free and your information (not your address, just your contact info and questionnaire answers) will be sent out to others on the website that they deem a good match based on your questionnaire. They’ll be able to contact you, but not vice versa. For the ability to proactively contact the people that are matches, you can pay $19.95 for a year’s subscription.
How to Make the Golden Girls Model Work
The tricky thing about roommates is that you can like a person just fine, but be a terrible fit for living together. Whether you’re renting out rooms in your own house or moving in with someone else, you should take the time to do your due diligence in advance and make sure you’re a good fit.
Meet and interview each other before committing.
Spend some time together before any decisions are made and use it to go over all the issues and habits that could cause potential problems. Before the meeting, try to think of every possible issue you can imagine having with a roommate and write notes on what to go over during your meeting. This could include, but shouldn’t be limited to:
- Cleaning habits
- The chores you each don’t mind and the ones you hate
- How often you have people over
- How often you’ll want to have family or friends stay over
- Health needs or mobility issues
- If you have or want pets
- How often you use shared spaces like the kitchen or the TV in the living room
- How you like to spend your free time at home
- Your means of getting around
- If you drink or smoke
Be honest during this meeting, even (especially) if you’re not sure they’ll like your answers. Better for both parties to know what they’re getting into before a lease is signed and furniture’s moved.
Set clear rules and responsibilities
Make sure you agree on general rules and guidelines. Some of these will be covered in the lease, but others will need to be discussed amongst yourselves. Sit down and figure out who’s willing to take on what responsibilities and what rules you need to ensure everyone stays happy. Then put it all in writing and make sure everyone has a copy.
Know everyone’s emergency contacts.
You have to be prepared for potential health issues or injuries. Make sure everyone in the house knows who to call if one of you breaks a bone or needs to be hospitalized with an illness. You should be willing to help each other call for help or get to the hospital, but being roommates doesn’t mean you’ll be the most important people to have by each other’s sides during a crisis. Make sure you all know who those people are and how to get ahold of them.
Communicate – don’t be strangers.
Finally, make an effort to keep the communication lines open. Consider regular check-in meetings to see if anyone’s feeling uncomfortable about something. Figure out the common interests you have, if any, that can bring you together as friends. Maybe you can all bond over watching The Golden Girls together, or making meals communally, or going for walks in the morning.
You don’t have to be best friends (sometimes best friends make bad roommates), but it’s important to be civil with each other and ideal if you’re able to be comfortable and friendly to one another. Living with other senior roommates probably won’t be just like The Golden Girls, but you may find it’s a real step up from aging-in-place on your own.