Nationwide programs provide companionship and support for people who choose to age in place or who have special needs.

Are you nearing retirement age and living alone?

Nearly 11,000 people a day turn 65 in this country, according to the AARP, and the Population Reference Bureau notes that the U.S. Census Bureau projects that number will nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060. And the vast majority of American seniors plan to remain in their homes, or age in place, according to a 2014 AARP survey.

Yet according to the National Council on Aging, 1 in 6 older adults who live alone face physical, cultural, and geographical barriers that isolate them from their peers and communities. An earlier study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reported both social isolation and loneliness are associated with a higher risk of mortality in adults ages 52 and older. Home-sharing programs can be an effective way to remediate this reality for seniors who live alone. This rapidly growing trend is gaining national recognition as an affordable housing opportunity that provides financial relief and much-needed security for seniors who want to age in place. Both home-sharing participants (host and guest) experience low-er housing costs with the added health benefit of companionship that diminishes the social isolation and loneliness many often experience.

How Does Home Sharing Work?

After filling out an application, including your preferences for home sharing, the service will find a “match” based on behavioral profiles and demographic preferences. If accepted, guests sign a contractual agreement with hosts to pay a monthly contribution for household services and other expenses.

Each home-sharing agency has different age requirements for prospective hosts and guests. Silvernest says the average age of its homeowners is 62, and the average age of renters is 40. “Our licensed master social workers do in-depth screening and visit

the homes of potential hosts to make sure they are appropriate,” says Linda Hoffman, creator and founder of the NYFSC program. “Social workers match those with similar interests, or offer service exchanges such as shopping or transportation with little or no contribution from the guest.”

Prospective participants in the NYFSC program have to provide three professional character reference letters. Background and financial checks are run on both hosts and guests, and periodic home visits are conducted.

Finding a Reputable Home-Sharing Program

There are several services and directories available to help prospective hosts and guests find the right home-sharing program. Among them: Senior Homeshares offers a free nationwide online search.

Silvernest provides homeowners with a range of tools and services for a monthly membership charge. Renters can also browse listings on the website.

The National Shared Housing Resource Center (NSHRC), a net-work of independent nonprofit home-sharing programs across the nation, provides a state-by-state list of home-sharing programs. Re-member that not all home shares are alike. Each arrangement needs to address the specific needs and capabilities of that particular host and guest. According to Hoffman, it’s about “finding the best hous-ing match for diverse applicants, no matter what their needs.”

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