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Inflation and living costs drive older adults to seek ‘boommates’

A report from PBS’ ‘The NewsHour’ describes how older adults are looking to cohabitation to stave off the shock of rising prices

As inflation continues to ravage the pocketbooks of Americans everywhere, older Americans are turning to cohabitation — either seeking out or becoming roommates — in an effort to make ends meet. This is according to a report televised earlier this month on the PBS NewsHour.

“I’m single, so I wasn’t able to put a lot into my IRA,” says Becky Miller, a 72-year old Colorado resident who sought out such a solution. “So I depleted it, and my mortgage and my HOA fees were over half of my income, so I decided for financial reasons to get a roommate.”

Miller’s roommate has lived with her in the home for about 18 months, according to the story, describing other benefits outside of the financial arrangement including companionship. Miller and her roommate, Marlene Mears, found each other on a service called Silvernest, a roommate matching and home-sharing company aimed primarily at baby boomers. In 2018, Finance of America Reverse (FAR) engaged into a partnership with Silvernest in conjunction with a rebranding initiative.

Riley Gibson, president of Silvernest commented within the story, describing how many seniors with either minimal or no savings in their retirement accounts have felt a much stronger need to seek out alternative living arrangements, particularly since the beginning of this year.

“Inflation and high housing costs spur more baby boomers to find roommates” from the PBS NewsHour

“Since the start of 2022 with inflation rising, people [are] under so much more financial pressure,” Gibson says. “The first half of this year we’ve seen by far more activity, probably 2 to 3 times the activity we’ve seen in previous years.”

20 years ago, the number of older adults who were cohabitating with a non-relative stood at about 1%. Now, that figure has risen to more than double the amount to over 1 million older adults according to Jennifer Molinsky, project director of the ‘housing an aging society’ program at the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS).

“Over a third of elder adult households have a cost burden paying over 30% of their income on housing, [and] half of those are paying more than 50% of their income on housing,” Molinsky explains in the story. “What people do is they start cutting back on other necessities like food and out-of-pocket medical care and insurance which really affects much more than your financial well-being. It affects your overall well-being.”

Watch the story at the PBS NewsHour YouTube channel.

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