House Sharing for Seniors: Profit or Pitfall?

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Many of us are working hard to save for our retirement years so that we can enjoy life comfortably and don’t have to worry about paying our bills.

As people age, though, they will start to lose friends and potentially even their spouses so we can start to get lonely. At this stage of life, kids have grown up and moved out and started families of their own so people often find themselves a little lonely during this time.

Cohousing for Seniors

If seniors are having trouble paying all the bills of a whole house on their own with their pension income or they’re lonely without their family, or even both, a new trend of house sharing for seniors has been spreading.

Some reviews of this idea are a little uncertain about it as it might not be beneficial for everyone, and seniors may be taken advantage of in terms of living costs.

Here’s what you need to know about house sharing for seniors.

What Is Cohousing?

This idea was first developed in the 1960s in Denmark, and it was an idea meant for young families to share in raising children. These families could very easily share in the duties of raising children when they lived in very close proximity to each other. It could include as little as two families, or as many as ten. It depends on the set up of the cohousing situation, and it can be unique for each setup.

This term has now come to be known as any kind of communal living, and it has different arrangements depending on who is living there.

House Sharing

There are different kinds of communal living: in some cases, the residents will share ownership of the house equally and the house could be freehold, in other cases, the set up may be similar to a co-operative where the house may or may not be freehold or they residents could all be roommates in a rental property.

Regardless of how it is set up, cohousing is all about people who want to come together to share in a sense of community and all take responsibility for the daily upkeep and chores of their home.


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Why Would Someone Choose Cohousing?

This model of housing allows for seniors to age in a place they are comfortable in and familiar with. There are a number of reasons that living in cohousing with others around them is beneficial for your senior loved one.

Be Part of a Community

As seniors age, they often feel very isolated and lonely especially if their family doesn’t live close (or doesn’t visit often). Living with others gives your loved one a sense of community and allows them to socialize with other people on a regular basis.

Often, those who live in cohousing will develop very close friendships with the others they live with. They share meals and help each other around the house.

Additionally, some seniors may have difficulty in doing specific tasks around the house while others they share a house with may be able to help them out with those tasks.

Better Overall Health

Many doctors suggest that regular socialization in older adults can lead to better overall health, long-term. It’s also helpful for happiness and well-being. This can help your loved one stay healthy and out of acute care facilities.

socialization in older adults


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Someone to Be There

Many older adults don’t live in the same city as their families, so there could be some worry about the well-being of their loved one. When seniors live with others in a cohousing situation, there are other people to be there when family members can’t be.

Oftentimes, people who live together in cohousing eat meals together, have social events, have game nights and even spend some holidays together. It provides a very comforting atmosphere where residents can enjoy the company of their friends every day.

Social support can be very helpful in preventing depression and anxiety, and it can even slow the onset or even progression of dementia.

Save Money

Cohousing with others can save seniors a lot of money – which is especially helpful since most seniors are on a fixed income. This model of living can help to keep on budget and still allow for independence and social life.

How Much Does Cohousing Cost?

Sharing a living space with others – regardless of the stage of life you’re at – is a very economical way of living. Those in shared living arrangements can save a lot of money on utilities, food, and even on domestic help.

Even though many seniors live in homes that are already paid for, they may not have the extra funds to pay for the additional care they might need as they age. Things like home care, meal preparation help and even cleaning services can become very expensive for those who don’t have the extra funds.

Cohousing Cost

It can be very difficult for seniors to find affordable housing that offers them the care and services they need as they age. When all the savings cohousing offers are put together, the benefits of sharing a living space with others can definitely outweigh the cost of purchasing a house.

Depending on the set up of the shared housing, and how many people there, most seniors find they save about $200 – $300 every month on their budget. In some cases, people can save up to $2,000 a month in sharing a living space with others.


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Finding the Right Living Space for Cohousing

While there are so many benefits to cohousing and sharing a living space with others, it can be very difficult to actually find a physical space to make this happen.

If you own your house, you might consider renovating it a little bit to make it work for cohousing.

You can do simple things like adding another kitchen to the basement and a bedroom to make it like a small apartment within your house. You could rent it out to someone you are comfortable living with, and therefore share the costs of the house.

What is becoming more common, though, is a condominium-style of shared housing. Lenders in Canada are still a little new to this style of lending, so it could be difficult to always secure financing if you need to buy a unit in this type of housing.

It’s important that you speak with your financial advisor to determine how you can best purchase cohousing if that is what you want to do.

Many of the new developments for cohousing have units that individuals purchase with other common living areas for socializing. Your financial advisor can help you find the best course of action for you.


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Is Cohousing the Right Option?

Many people may find the idea of living with other people odd, especially when they have been on their own for such a long time.

Cohousing can definitely help seniors save money and improve their overall health and wellbeing. If your loved one is a little isolated from others and could benefit from socializing with their friends, cohousing may be a great option.

Additionally, cohousing can help with home care, domestic chores, meal preparation, and even help with getting to appointments. More than that, though, it gives a sense of community and belonging when so many seniors feel as though they are isolated from everyone.

House Sharing Option

Overall, options for retirement living should not be limited to long-term care homes or institutions. Many seniors are quite capable of living healthy and fulfilling lives, they just need a little help.

That help often doesn’t mean that they need institutional care, but rather just a little bit of help with certain chores or they are just lonely and living with others will be better for their health.

Finding the right home for your parent, who is aging, will likely be one of the hardest things you ever do. Putting your parent in long-term care is not always going to be the best option, especially when they are still healthy and mostly able to take care of themselves.

Knowing that your parent is sharing a home with others they have lots in common with might make it easier to consider. You may want to make sure of the cost of the specific place your loved one is looking at, and compare to what else is out there.

Comparing the cost of cohousing to in home care or even a long-term care facility will help you understand the potential cost savings for your loved one.

Considering cohousing instead of other senior care options will give your loved one a much better quality of life which will keep them healthy for many years to come.

Being part of a community can help prevent depression and anxiety – both of which are very common in seniors who are living alone.

Your retirement plan doesn’t have to be limited – even if your income is – and you can definitely enjoy these years with your friends, in a home of your own. Keeping independence doesn’t have to break the bank!