The Reality of Roommates for Senior Women

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Most women would like to live with another woman because they feel they are compatible, says Zadoff, whose program assists 2,600 people a year but is unable to match them all. "We have many more inquiries than we used to have."

What's responsible for the increasing figures? "This thing called the economy is why women are more interested now," says Marianne Kilkenny, founder of Women Living in Community, an organization committed to creating groups to live in communities or co-share housing.

A retired human resources executive from Silicon Valley, Kilkenny has first-hand experience in community living and roommate situations.

As with any big decision, you have to have a push and pull, says Kilkenny. "My push was to leave corporate America and both my parents had passed away. The thought of me and my future was the push. The pull here was two things: Asheville is a woman's town and I was reading Joan Medlicott."

After moving to Asheville, N.C., in 2006 the retiree has experimented with numerous living arrangements since relocating to her small community consisting of three separate homes.

"I shared a home with another woman," says Kilkenny. "We shared the same name."

The two Mariannes found each after attending the same spiritual home, and before long were sharing everything from common space to cooking.

Are Women Blazing a Trail?

"I think women are ahead of the curve. Monetarily this makes a lot of sense," says Marianne Kilkenny.

Joan Medlicott is unsure of what inspired her to begin writing her novels centered around older women sharing a home but the idea came to her many years ago. "I was in the bathtub one night and these ladies appeared [not in physical form] and started talking to me," says Medlicott. "It just came through the top of my head. Maybe somewhere deep down inside I remembered the Golden Girls. I used to watch them. Perhaps that was the original inspiration."

Although the write has never co-shared a home, she's a proponent of shared living.

"From my vantage point looking backward, I'm 78, I would prefer to live with a group of women.It would be companionable," says Medlicott. I think if something happened to my husband I would absolutely never have another man in my life."

"I don't think it's necessary for people to live lonely and in isolation, I just think that is the worst thing," says Medlicott.

If you're going to share a home, Medlicott says you need tolerance, communication and a framework for dealing with issues that may crop up from sharing a home.

But, seniors aren't repeating the follies of their youth. Where many times financial needs or college roommate selection could pair off two individuals who fail to mesh, seniors who are exploring senior communities, home-sharing or roommate situations avoid strife by matching personalities.

"You think you know your friend and then when you move in and you might be in for a big surprise," says Sandra Timmermann, a gerontologist and director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute in Westport, Conn. "It could be an odd couple situation. "

To prepare for co-sharing those considering a roommate should approach it like a marriage or business relationship. A few questions to ask before co-sharing, says Timmermann: How are both of you prepared for illnesses? How do you really deal with that as you're both aging?

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