There is a host of scientific evidence showing that social isolation has a major impact on a person’s overall health and survival. One statistic suggests that social isolation has the same health impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Now, to combat social isolation, many older adults are turning to homesharing. In most cases, it is a matter of finances, but the benefits stem far beyond the monthly costs of living.
Mona Kessel, who recently retired from working at NASA for more than 30 years, has been planning to homeshare with her two sisters for more than 40 years. Kessel, who is 66 years old, lives in Maryland and her little sister Becky, who is 65, lives in Georgia. Her oldest sister Rachel, who is 68, lives in Kansas. While drinking toasts to this plan decades ago, the group would say, “Here’s a toast to Toast Ranch.” Over the years, the plans have evolved and become much more solidified.
“The name Toast Ranch comes from the fact that there is nothing you can do with old white bread except toast it,” said Kessel. “Until the last couple of years, it was only a concept. It is a little more than that now with a likely location of Kansas City. Climate change hasn’t greatly affected that region yet, but the models have recently changed to show it will be heating up a lot over the next 30 years,” said Kessel.
Over the past 24 months, several other cities were considered but climate change curtailed their choices. “I have a very rough sketch of a central common area surrounded by private living space connected by indoor/outdoor walkways. Several separate guest spaces are also envisioned for friends and family to visit” said Kessel.
Gayle Slentz has lived in Alaska for more than 30 years. Now, she is moving from Craig to Tucson, Az., to live with her sister Kris and brother-in-law Ken Howell. Slentz, who is 67 years old, cannot manage her home on her own and the rental market in Craig is virtually nonexistent.
How does it work?
Rebecca Scanlan is with Silvernest, an online roommate-matching platform. While the mantra for many older adults is to age in place, they now find they are faced with skyrocketing living costs on fixed budgets. Scanlan says these new economic realities are leading many older adults to the sharing economy. They can leverage their home and generate extra income for mortgage payments, home improvements, taxes, and other living costs.
Silvernest links retirees, empty nesters, and other older adults with compatible housemates for long-term homesharing. Scanlan said through homesharing homeowners can earn $850 a month on average in extra income. It helps renters pay far less than market rent, saving an average of $750 a month compared to a one-bedroom apartment. “Both enjoy companionship and the efficiencies that come with sharing a space,” said Scanlan.
Silvernest provides the technical tools to match housemates based on behavioral profiles and demographic preferences. The site allows for homeowners to conduct full background checks, and communicate securely without sharing personal details. It also helps generate state-specific leases and manage automated payments.
Silvernest was launched in late 2015 and while it is designed to help those 50 and older find housemates, it supports most anyone’s needs. “Post-pandemic, we have seen the most significant growth and new interest,” says Riley Gibson, president of Silvernest. We have grown through word-of-mouth and some advertising in a couple cities. We have also seen growth through incredible partnerships with Area Agencies on Aging and other non-profits that help spread the word to their communities.”
A sense of safety and security
Scanlan said the average age among those listing their homes is 60, but the average age of the housemates is around 40. Qualified housemates can be any age that a homeowner desires. It’s up to both parties to decide what works best for their situation. “We’re actually seeing quite a few intergenerational pairings across all parts of the country,” said Scanlan.
While extra income is the driving force, there are the added benefits of companionship, connection and the ability to stay in your own home. There’s also the safety and security that comes with sharing a home with someone else. Scanlan said homeowners can choose to offer reduced rent in exchange for home maintenance, cleaning, and other around-the-house help from their housemate.
“Homesharing is still relatively new and unfamiliar,” said Gibson. “We are working to normalize the idea and improve the experience every way we can.”
John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute. He can be reached at email@example.com. Becky, Rachel, Mona and Bob having a late lunch at Captain Daniel Packer Inn in Mystic, Conn.