07/17/2014 12:42 EDT | Updated 09/16/2014 05:59 EDT

For Divorced Adults, Shared Housing Is a Good Option

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According to a recent report published by AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), 71 per cent of adults aged 50-64 want to continue to live in their own communities. The numbers jump dramatically for those 65 and older to 87 per cent.

In these times where the divorce rate among 50-65-year-olds is increasing, some are looking at unconventional alternatives. One option is to create what are being called "liveable communities." These are shared homes where adults who choose to live together get the benefits of companionship, economies of scale and affordability.

According to an American Census Bureau study in 2012, "nonfamily" households are on the increase, especially for women.

It makes sense that like-minded adults can co-exist in an arrangement that is neither like a marriage or like a family. The communal unit can take advantage of the benefits of larger accommodation, the sharing of cars, the advantages that arise out of combining furniture and electronics and the savings on food that is bought in bulk.

Putting aside the possible glitches that can come up in any arrangement, such as collecting the rent and the grocery money, there is much to recommend this as a viable alternative. It may just be the soft landing that transitions older separating adults from living in a couple to living with a couple of adults.

Among the positives for older adults is the opportunity to control costs at a time when they may be retiring and drawing on pensions or savings. Another is being in the company of others which is a factor in maintaining good mental and physical health. Best of all, if it isn't working, pulling up stakes and moving on doesn't require lawyers -- there is no divorce.

As the idea of shared housing takes hold, websites specializing in linking seniors are showing up in major cities. Some that are fashioned on the "Meet Up" model, circulate information about casual get- togethers where people can socialize and assess their suitability for space-sharing.

For older adults coming out of marriages, either by choice or by circumstance, the opportunity to try out a shared arrangement can reduce the anxiety about selling the family home or moving out of a rental apartment that suddenly is too expensive. In some circumstances, the new shared home may be bigger and in a safer location as the costs are being spread among several people.

Here are some things that should be top of mind when considering a shared arrangement:

1. Are there house rules that provide healthy boundaries among the roommates and are those rules accepted by all in writing?

2. Are the shared costs clearly outlined and reviewed on a regular basis by all contributors?

3. Is there a system of "governance" so that rules can be enforced in a way that is agreed by all?

4. Are there temporary arrangements available to deal with ongoing payment of expenses in the event of absence due to injury or illness?

5. Is there a "trial" period and a "probationary" period for you and for others?

6. Are you ready to make a new "family" arrangement for yourself?

Although choosing to live with non-family members may not be a long-term plan, it may provide an economical transition plan when personal finances are changing.


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