sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Shared Housing for Seniors – Solutions for Income and Companionship

By Annamarie Pluhar July 19, 2023 Lifestyle

Arnie calls her home “my accordion house” and laughs.

It’s a huge Victorian building in the center of Concord, New Hampshire. Arnie inherited it from an aunt who lived on the second floor until her death. When her husband died at an early age, she was suddenly a widow of very limited means.

Committed to keeping the home she loves, she got creative, renting every single bit of it in a number of innovative ways. She loves living with home-mates.

Arnie’s Solution

Arnie rents the second floor with its four bedrooms to law students. They have a kitchenette and bathroom. On the ground floor, a former drawing room has been converted to an Airbnb. She rents the living room and kitchen for functions. She even rents a wall in the second floor living room to labor organizers who have a desk, printer and bulletin board. They use it one day a week.

Maybe you made some of the same career choices Arnie did. She followed her passion and has a long career in public service (ran for governor twice) and in radio. Currently, she hosts a progressive political talk on public radio, The Attitude with Arnie Arnesen.

While not lucrative, her choices gave her a life she loves. The challenge is to make the finances work, especially in retirement.

Not everybody has a Victorian mansion, but many single empty-nesters have extra room. And like Arnie, many could benefit from the added income home-sharing can provide.

Retirement Realities

Income from house sharing can make a significant difference, especially for single women who are finding that their retirement income is limited. Currently in the United States, 45 percent of single retirees are 90 percent dependent on Social Security.

According to the Social Security Report, Fast Facts and Figures, in 2019 the average Social Security payment for a woman was $1125 a month. Men are slightly higher, at $1448. That’s average. Many make do with much less.

Adding Income and Companionship in Retirement Living

My website is full of stories about people, mostly women, who share housing. Arnie’s solution turns what could be a burden (owning a large home) into a resource. Nancy spent her life in social work and dedication to nonviolence. Living in shared housing allows her to live in the middle of town where she can walk to all her activities. It’s the retirement she dreamed of.

Many retirees started sharing to have some additional income. For instance, there is a special education teacher who rents to medical residents and saves the income to tide her over during the summer months. Or another who found herself deeply in debt and began renting a room in her condo as a way to climb out of that hole. There’s Amy, a librarian who wanted to not feel so stressed.

What is astonishing to realize is that if you have an additional five hundred dollars a month, that’s six thousand dollars a year. That’s not chump change.

The money part is why many turn to shared housing. They stay for the companionship, the help, and the comfort. Sharing housing is just good common sense. We human beings have been banding together and helping each other out since the beginning of time.

Humans thrive in community. We’re wired to have constant (yes, really!) human connection. Of course we need some privacy. We can have both when we share housing.

Creating Your Own Solution

Of course, successful house sharing takes work. It is a process to find compatible partners. It takes care, clarity about who you are and what you need, and honesty. Creating a safe home with others doesn’t happen overnight. But it is completely doable. There are lots of nice people in the world.

If you are single and living in straitened circumstances, please consider how your life would improve if you were to have a home-mate (or two!). If you are currently living with others, like a partner or family members, help the single people you know by talking about this idea. It’s a sensible, smart solution to a real issue affecting millions of people.

Here’s how you might start: Play with the idea, imagine yourself in various situations. Talk to your friends about it. Look around your current home. How could you make space for others?

Read the stories about real people sharing housing on our website. Read “Sharing Housing, a Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates.”

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you considered sharing housing? Are you doing it? If you’ve thought of it and not done it, what has gotten in the way? Have you ever shared housing? What was that like? What questions do you have about it? Please join the conversation in the comments.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I own my 3 bedroom home outright and had thought about having a friend move in with me 10 years ago. Now having lived alone for over 10 years, I don’t know that I could live with anyone else. I like being alone. I enjoy not having to alter my life or schedule to accommodate someone else. I don’t need the money; it was more about a golden girls scenario for companionship. Now it is unlikely that I would do that.


I don’t know about how Canadians fare but I know I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world! Where a one bedroom apartment rents from $1500 to $2500!! It’s crazy. It’s funny but I use to dream that I would be retiring with my girlfriends because I valued their relationships more than my husband’s? Anyways, I am nearing 65 and I am planning to work for as long as I can because firstly, I love my work and secondly, I do need more money to retire (sadly)!!


So agree with you. We live in Port perry, – outside Toronto. The housing prices have held, but the rents are pretty high for a little town as ours. What we do have is a iome that is shared by 4 women. They have each bought a share in the house. Food for thought…


Not an option for the 40% of Americans who don’t own their homes. Most rentals do not allow subleasing. Despite the figures the author cites, there seems to be an assumption on this site that we’re all at least financially solvent. That we all own houses (without mortgages!) and can pay our property taxes and maintenance expenses. That we have money in the bank for a rainy day. That we have adequate health insurance. I’m 64 and have none of these things. It would be nice to read more articles about how to live on $1300/month and no assets whatsoever, because that is reality for tens of millions of older women.




An idea. Senior needs to sell home, can no longer do the upkeep. Could not the senior rent a portion of the house, with low rent in return for up keep, ie lawn mowing, snow removal….hope it helps…


Hello. I suppose that when I wrote the original article I was thinking about homeowners. I do know that there are so many who are trying to survive on very little money and are not homeowners. What I do think and hope is that by teaming up together people can make it work. A two-bedroom apartment shared by two people costs far less than a studio apartment. Or a house with four bedrooms. There are many ways to share housing!!!! I like a group of three who are compatible enough for everyone to be comfortable.

The Author

Annamarie Pluhar, M.Div, is the author of Sharing Housing, A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates and directs Sharing Housing, a website providing training and tools to help individuals pursue this option. She lives in Vermont with one two-legged and two four-legged home-mates.

You Might Also Like