Not everyone will grow old in the arms of a romantic partner, but they can at least retire surrounded by people who care about them.
“It’s the companionship of having someone to talk to when you come home at night or [having someone there] if you have a situation where you need a little assistance,” says 70-year-old Bonnie Moore.
In 2014, Moore created the Golden Girls Network—at the time, there were 8.7 million widows and 2.3 million widowers across the country and older individuals who were divorced or separated represented 14 percent of their population.
The online network allows single men and women aged 40 and older to seek roommates in shared living spaces. “It works like match.com—you contact each other and if you like what you see, arrange an interview and move forward with moving in,” says Moore.
Currently, the site has 765 users registered in 45 states. They are either homeowners seeking roommates or individuals looking for housing—everyone pays $39 for a six-month membership.
The idea for the site came after Moore needed to decide what to do with her 5-bedroom home in Bowie, Md. after separating from her husband in 2008.
“We had put a tremendous amount of money into remodeling the home, the recession hit, I lost the value of all the work I'd put into it and I couldn’t afford to keep it because my income had been cut in half,” she says.
Not willing to sell her dream home, she decided to look for roommates. It was most important that they were similar to her in marital status and age. Currently, the 5-bedroom home is fully occupied with Moore, a roommate who is employed full time, a retiree who spends her time volunteering, another woman who shares most of her time with her children and grandkids and another who works from home as a consultant.
While they all have different schedules and lifestyles, they find comfort in their shared quarters.
“We try to get together once a month for a shared meal,” says Moore. “We tend to meet in the kitchen—you know, somebody comes home from work, you go to the kitchen and you start cooking then somebody else comes along and you sit and talk for a while. We’re friendly with each other and we talk about things that are going on.”
Not only did acquiring roommates provide financial relief for Moore, it has done the same for her roommates. “What I have found is people who have moved in with me have cut their housing costs in half,” she says. “I’ve had several people who have downsized from other situations so they go from paying $1,600 per month to paying $800 per month, so that’s important to them.”
While Moore’s search for roommates began on Craigslist, a site that can be intimidating because of its large pool of inappropriate candidates, she says, those who use the Golden Girls Network “have found value because you know you are dealing with somebody in your age group and you know that you are dealing with someone who is interested in shared living.”
In May 2015, Moore published the book How to Start a Golden Girls’ Home
, providing information such as: Questions to ask when interviewing potential roommates, warnings signs to look for, defining non-negotiables and how to handle tricky situations.
One of the greatest fears for people in this situation is the idea of living with a stranger. “It’s
always been my experience that the person is only a stranger on the first day—you can get to know people,” says Moore, who has lived with nearly 20 roommates in the past 7 years. “I've had all kinds of different people and I’ve learned a lot from them and I hope they've learned something from me. It has been an interesting challenge and it has been useful.”