Alternative Housing for Seniors: Tiny Homes and Shared Housing

When you think about senior living, nursing homes, retirement communities, and assisted living might come to mind. Unfortunately, these options can get pricy. They also don’t let you age in place. Luckily, the tiny home movement and shared housing for seniors is gaining popularity.

What is Shared Housing?

Shared housing is an alternative senior living arrangement similar to the lifestyle of The Golden Girls. Unrelated seniors live together to save money and feel connected.

Benefits of Shared Housing

Shared Housing Offers Companionship

Seniors with social connections have a healthier, happier life than those that don’t. With shared housing, you’ll always have someone to share meals with, talk to, and do life with.

It’s a Safer Form of Independent Living for Seniors

A recent AARP survey found that 90% of seniors want to age in place. Unfortunately, aging in place isn’t always safe. Shared housing makes it safer. Someone is there to find you if you fall and to remind you to take your meds.

You Can Save Money

Three seniors sharing one home is a lot cheaper than three seniors living in separate homes.  That’s the philosophy behind shared housing. It’s an affordable retirement living option, especially for low-income seniors. Roommates split up the mortgage, utility, and entertainment bills.

Challenges of Shared Housing for Seniors

Finding a Compatible Roommate

Choosing the right roommates is the biggest challenge of shared housing. You need to screen candidates yourself and trust your judgement. To find roommates, post an ad in the newspaper or use a website like the Golden Girls Network. In Los Angeles, the nonprofit Affordable Living for the Aging helps connect homeowners with senior roommates. 

Potential Safety Concerns

At the beginning, your roommates are just strangers. This can be scary at first. There’s always the potential for identity theft, stolen belongings, or physical harm. Avoid this by checking references and getting to know someone well before agreeing to a roommate arrangement. 

Creating House Rules

It might feel silly creating house rules with a group of adults, but it’s essential. You’ll need to have a house meeting to establish rules about:

  • Guests and parties
  • Household chores
  • Food sharing and kitchen use
  • Parking
  • Pets
  • Privacy
  • Quiet hours
  • Splitting up costs

What are Tiny Homes?

Tiny homes are another example of creative housing for seniors. They’re innovative, compact living spaces around 100 - 500 square feet in size.

Benefits of Tiny Houses for the Elderly

You Can Put Them Wherever You Want

Tiny homes can be dropped onto any plot of land. Some even have wheels so that you can travel with them.  A big benefit of tiny homes for seniors is that you can place them on your family’s property. You keep your privacy but get to live close to your children and grandchildren.

Tiny Homes are Customizable

You can buy plans and build a tiny home yourself, or you can order one online. You can find tiny homes with wheelchair accessible bathrooms and low cupboards and countertops. Companies like NextDoor Housing, Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, and Elder Cottages offer senior-friendly options.

You Can Save Money

Tiny homes help save you money so that you can get the most out of your retirement. You’ll pay less for your house and for power. Living on family property may mean free cable, internet or land. If family members help you build it, you could pay as little as $23,000.

Challenges of Tiny Houses for Seniors

You Need to Find Land

If your family doesn’t have the land to spare, you’ll need to find some of your own. This can be a challenge, especially in big cities. Land purchasing or leasing costs can quickly add up too. Explore towns with cheap land or talk to friends about leasing part of their yard.

You May Need the Cash on Hand

Lenders may not be as willing to sign off on a mortgage for such a tiny structure. You may have to pay in cash, which could be tough unless you’re selling your current home.

You’ll Have to Make Adjustments

Moving from a 1,500ft² home to a 100-500 ft² home will take some getting used to. You won’t have room for all of your stuff, so you’ll need a storage unit or donation bins. You may not have the space to quilt, host house parties, or work on big projects either. Simple things like laundry and cooking become challenging too. Read about some tiny home tips about cooking to ease some worries. 

Other Alternative Housing Options

If shared housing or a tiny home doesn’t seem right, you have a few other creative senior living options:  

Multigenerational Housing
Move in with your kids and grandkids. Share the whole house or look into adding on an in-law quarters for more privacy.

Villages
You could join or set up your own village. In the village retirement model, neighbors and volunteers care for one another, offering ride-sharing, community support, and home repair services. You’ll pay a membership fee, but you get to stay in your own home. There is currently one available in Los Angeles and another in development. Find a village near you today.