Jackie Stromberg loves her apartment in San Francisco’s Richmond District. It’s in a nice neighborhood west of the Golden Gate Bridge, and she can walk to the bank and a fruit stand she likes, and to a supermarket that stays open late.
Even here, however, Stromberg, who is single, was beginning to feel rootless. She had lost her mother, uncle, aunt and two closest friends, one after another. Nearing 70, she was planning her retirement.
“I was really close to leaving,” she says.
But Stromberg’s beloved apartment has one other important feature: an extra room. So she became one of a small but growing number of seniors to offer space in their homes for rent, in her case through a San Francisco nonprofit that matches older residents with younger tenants.
“This has enabled me to stay,” says Stromberg, who gushes about her new roommate, a 27-year-old who works for the city helping disabled people, and who arrived in June.
“My family, almost everyone’s gone. I don’t have any friends anymore,” says Stromberg, a cheerful former hotel bartender. “At 70, I don’t need a new friend, but we are friendly. We have a rapport with each other. We like each other’s sense of humor. I love to hear about his work. We’ve done really well.”
For seniors, so-called intergenerational home sharing means additional income to help them stay in their homes, companionship, and help with maintenance and chores.
“For some people, staying where they are makes sense, and if having a roommate helps them do that, that’s great,” says Jennifer Molinsky, a senior research associate at Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies who focuses on older adult housing.
It’s also at least a partial solution to the problem of spiraling housing costs for young professionals and students; it’s no coincidence that the idea is taking off particularly in high-priced cities such as San Francisco, Boston and New York.
The number of people over 65 living with nonrelatives has doubled in the last 10 years, census figures show, to about 921,000.