PORTLAND, Ore. — After Bonnie Moore got a divorce, she thought she’d have to give up her dream home for good.
Instead, she got creative.
“I was living here alone, and the recession hit … and I said, ‘What do I do?’” said Moore, who lives outside of Washington, D.C. “I didn't want to walk away from it. And I tried to figure out what I could do to keep my house, and so I said, ‘Roommates are in my future.’”
Moore’s experience inspired her to start the Golden Girls Network, an online business that tries to help match senior roommates. After several years of running the network through word of mouth and some well-placed Web ads, she went national last year and now has 1,300 members.
Twenty-eight percent of adults ages 50 to 64 live by themselves, according to AARP. It’s a situation experts say is harmful to both their health and their finances.
But 2 percent of people ages 46 to 64 live with unrelated roommates, a population that appears to be growing. Nearly 38 percent of adults older than 45 say they would consider sharing their homes with others as they age, according to AARP.
America Tonight talked to Moore and Michele Fiasca, the founder of the online matching site Let’s Share Housing — along with their roommates — about why they’ve chosen to live together instead of alone.
Most of Moore and Fiasca’s clients are women. Some 4 million women older than 50 live with at least two other women in the same age bracket, according to the AARP.
Fiasca says it’s second nature for women, who make up 75 percent of her client base, to group together.
She’s matched at least 15 households since starting her business in 2011
“Connectedness is what life’s about,” Fiasca said. “That’s really why we’re here as human beings is connectedness. And I think we forget that and we get all busy in our own little microcosm of life.”
The economics of cohabitation make it an increasingly prevalent lifestyle in the U.S., according to Pew Research Center.
AARP says 73 percent of adults say they’d like stay in their current residences as long as possible. Having roommates makes that more realistic.
“Either you choose to live by yourself — have your own house, your own car and your own lawnmower — and then work yourself to death,” Fiasca said. “Or maybe you could do something different like pool your resources, find some like-minded people and share your life.”
A 2013 study by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology found that lonely people can have higher inflammatory response to stress, which can lead to heart disease.
“Our little tagline is ‘Live better together,’ so I think it can make people healthier,” Fiasca said. “I think [it makes people] more engaged … more alive and more connected.”
Moore, 70, has no intention of going to assisted living.\
“Women are living longer, and they’re healthier,” she said. “I want to die in my house.”
It’s just more fun
On a recent visit to Moore’s house in Maryland, three housemates were sharing recipes, discussing their families and filling the newest housemate in on the shortest route to the grocery store.
There are Halloween parties, 33-person Thanksgiving dinners, visits from children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren. They like to plan lunches and dinners, or crack open a bottle of wine or two.
Some of the housemates we met said shared housing is about more than just the space; it’s about giving emotional support and creating a second family, too.
That doesn’t, however, mean Moore wants to also share her life with every outsider.
“Once I had someone call me and say, ‘Would you like to have a reality show?’” Moore said. “I said, ‘No, we don’t want drama.’”
Video produced by Erica R. Hendry. Music: "Green Lights" by Jahzzar, via Creative Commons.