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Seniors share homes for cost saving, companionship

Carolyn Allen, left, didn’t want to live alone. Marcia Rosenfeld wanted help paying the rent at her home. Both benefit from a home-sharing program.

Associated Press

Carolyn Allen, left, didn’t want to live alone. Marcia Rosenfeld wanted help paying the rent at her home. Both benefit from a home-sharing program.

NEW YORK — It's not exactly The Golden Girls, but for Marcia Rosenfeld, it'll do.

Rosenfeld is among thousands of aging Americans taking part in home-sharing programs across the country that allow seniors to stay in their homes and save money while getting some much-needed companionship.

"It's a wonderful arrangement," said the white-haired Rosenfeld, who when asked her age will only say she's a senior citizen. "The way the rents are these days, I couldn't stay here without it."

She shares her two-bedroom, $1,000-a-month Brooklyn apartment with Carolyn Allen, a 69-year-old widow who has suffered two strokes and no longer wants to live alone.

Agencies that put such seniors together say the need appears to be growing as baby boomers age and struggle to deal with foreclosures, property taxes and rising rents.

"Our seniors want to remain part of the community they were raised in, where they worked and went to church," said Jackie Grossman, director of the home-sharing program at Open Communities in the Chicago suburbs.

At the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens, where applicants have tripled since 2008, the average boarder pays about $700 a month. At the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center in Baltimore, the average is about $500.

Agencies handle background checks and other screening and consider lifestyle criteria — smoking, pets, disposable income — in making matches. When a match is made, the roommates sign an agreement on day-to-day issues.

Not all agencies limit applicants to seniors. In the New York program, only one person has to be 60 or older.

The agencies' services mean people who want a roommate don't have to post notices in newspapers or online and worry about who will respond.

"Craigslist can be very scary, especially for women," said Connie Skillingstad, president of Golden Girl Homes Inc. in Robbinsdale, Minn., which refers women to housing resources including home-sharing. "They'd rather go through a respectable organization."

Seniors share homes for cost saving, companionship 07/23/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 6:13pm]
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