Is Intergenerational Housing for You?


If you’re a senior who welcomes mingling with other generations who aren’t family, consider home sharing, Airbnb or college retirement communities.

An AARP survey found 32% of adults 50+ are open to sharing their home, for extra income and/or companionship. About 50 nonprofit home sharing programs in the U.S. match older adults with house mates. California has the most (17), Pennsylvania and Washington State rank second and third (six and five), New York has one.

Make a match 

“Most of our matches are peer-to-peer, more like Golden Girls. San Francisco is the anomaly: 75% of our matches are inter-generational (vs. 25% in Marin County), the roommate’s average age is 42, and 40% of are under 25 (vs. age 62 in Marin),” says Karen Coppock, senior director of Home Match in five Bay Area counties. Matches are free, a seven-page questionnaire asks your preferences (requesting male or female is OK, but not age), and tenant history and criminal background checks are done before a Zoom or phone interviews and in-person meeting.

Jeanette’s story

Jeanette Heinen, 66, a married insurance agent, started out wanting just extra income from her three house mates from Home Match, but found community instead. She’s now mulling a house-swap with a Chicago woman in her 30s, who lived for a summer in her San Francisco home.

“My husband and I have a sense of humor and she did too, our personalities meshed and we got along famously.”

“Our motive was purely financial. We’re not here to entertain them, no fun and games, and don’t expect someone to wait on us,” says Heinen .”But she was so caring and pleasant when I broke my foot and was on my back for three months. My husband and I have a sense of humor and she did too, our personalities meshed and we got along famously. The whole experience was delightful.”

Layne’s story

For nine years, Layne Zimmerman, 73, has enjoyed being an Airbnb  host for dozens of guests in her three-bedroom San Francisco home. “I loved meeting people from all over the world, from Brazil, China to France – the company, as I live alone, learning things, like more about Indian food from an Indian guy, and made friendships that lasted.”

…made friendships that lasted.” 

Her Paris couple later moved to her city, while a Maine woman stayed a month three years in a row. She’s kept in touch with both. Couples and dogs (she has two) were welcome and full kitchen privileges were granted, says Zimmerman, who reports almost no bad experiences (except for a woman allergic to dust who wanted her to remove the rugs, a couple with a baby who cried all night, and a man who smoked in her yard, whose smoke lingered in his clothing.)

Go Back to College

For lifelong learners, older-adult communities on or near university campuses may be ideal, since you can take classes, enjoy concerts, performances and lectures and mentor students. Being a graduate or former faculty isn’t required (though common). Prices and housing vary greatly, as future long-term care costs are often included.

At Kendal at Oberlin, whose 223 apartments and cottages are a mile from Oberlin College in Ohio, you can attend concerts from its acclaimed Conservatory of Music, take classes, volunteer at the Early Learning Center for small children, meet students in the college work-study program on-site, and assist the college on environmental projects. Shuttles transport residents to campus. For a studio, prices start at $133,795, with monthly fees of $3,616. A one-bedroom for two people starts at $267,649 with monthly fees of $6,482. (Single occupancy one-bedrooms start at $200,049 and a $4,520 monthly fee.) Kendal, which also has retirement communities near Cornell University and Dartmouth, has won Programs of Distinction awards from Generations United, a nonprofit who promotes inter-generational programs.

On the Arizona State University campus near Phoenix, a 20-story 246-unit community, just opened in December and almost sold out, is Mirabella at ASU. Besides classes, you have access to the college’s five-million-book library, and can attend concerts from performing arts students who live at Mirabella and faculty talks in its own lecture hall. Prices start at $390,000 for a one-bedroom, with monthly fees of $4,195-$5,570. Mirabella has four restaurants; Kendal’s dining venues are staffed by local high school students

A word about prices

Prices in life plan communities like these (called Continuing Care Residential Communities) generally include meals, classes, activities and future long-term care, meant to address all stages of aging.  Extra apartments for assisted living and memory-care are also on-site. Prices (called entry fees) are usually 90% refundable after death to heirs.  This is not comparable to normal house prices; if you buy a house, your meals, activities and staff for future assisted-living aren’t included. The campus options can get pretty pricey.  At Stanford U’s Vi at Palo Alto, one-bedrooms start at $769,000.

Our tips:

  • Decide if you want another generation in your home, or merely nearby.
  • If you do home-sharing or Airbnb, make sure you and your house mate are on the same page on lifestyle issues. If you go to bed early, will you mind someone going to bed or coming home much later, are kitchen and cooking privileges, pets or overnight or daytime guests allowed etc.
  • If you choose a college community, decide your priorities: cost, location (big-city vs. small-town, average age, amenities.
  • Check out our article on home-sharing for more info and tips.

NOTE:  Senior Planet is an open forum and offers articles for information only;; we are not a go-between or a forum for readers who wish to contact each other via email for any reason including housemate arrangements.  Please contact local or national agencies directly and check potential roommates or guests carefully before committing.