As the Baby Boomer generation reaches retirement age, they’re redefining what seniorhood means, finding new and creative ways to adapt to the inevitable challenges of getting older.
A growing number of people over 50 are looking for affordable solutions to keep their own homes and stay independent as they “age in place.” To that end, senior house-sharing can be an attractive option in terms of economic, social, and safety considerations. In other words, instead of living alone, they set up co-housing arrangements to reduce housing costs, remain independent, and enjoy companionship.
Surprisingly, more than a third of women aged 65 and older live alone due to divorce, death of their spouse, or the decision to remain single. Why are so many older women living alone? For one thing, women statistically have a longer lifespan than men – an average of five years longer. More importantly, “gray divorce” is becoming more commonplace; US Census Department figures reveal that the overall divorce rate for the 50-plus demographic has actually doubled since 1990.
Bonnie Moore, founder of the Golden Girls Network, built a business capitalizing on these trends. I imagine she’s one of the few entrepreneurs who can say her business was inspired by an 80s TV show.
Bonnie, now 70, thought her hippie days of communal living were long behind her. But when she and her husband divorced in 2008 in the middle of the nationwide housing crash, she was left with a newly remodeled 5-bedroom home that she couldn’t afford to sell and couldn’t afford to keep. Her income was suddenly cut in half, and she had debts and expenses to pay. Her choice, she said, was either to “walk away and give my dream house to the bank” or find another way.
Here’s where the TV show comes in… The Golden Girls (in case you’re from another planet and haven’t heard of it) was a very popular 80s sitcom about four retirement-age women sharing a home in Florida. Bonnie figured if it could work for these fictional characters, maybe it could work in real life.
Though she was doubtful that they would be receptive to the idea of living with housemates, she reached out to the other women in her community. She was pleasantly surprised at the response, and soon she was happily co-housing with several roomies.
It worked out so well, in fact, that she founded The Golden Girls Network, an online “matchmaking” service for women – baby boomers and older – who want to share housing. Her business provides a perfect solution for the growing number of people with limited or fixed incomes who either have a home to share or a need for affordable housing and companionship.
A six-month membership is $39 and entitles subscribers to unlimited access to a searchable database of potential housemates. And you don’t even have to be a girl to join the Golden Girl Network! Though only a couple dozen of the network’s 600+ members are men, Bonnie says “they don’t mind being called Golden Guys.” Bonnie also has written a book about her experiences and teaches telecourses showing others how to create “Golden Girls Homes.”
No matter where your inspiration comes from, if you can spot an emerging trend, you can find an opportunity to monetize it.