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Creative living arrangements can boost income and help seniors stay in their homes

November 28, 2016 | By

Whether it’s living with others their own age, younger family members, or strangers, a growing number of senior citizens are rethinking how they live out their retirement years.

Seniors – defined as 60 and older – are the fastest-growing demographic of Airbnb hosts in the United States. About 13 percent – or 62,000 – of Airbnb hosts are seniors, and the majority are women, according to San Francisco-based Airbnb.

A recent Wall Street Journal article reports that only about 2 percent of seniors currently live in a household with someone other than a family member, but “experts expect those numbers to rise, driven by economic need, demographic changes in society, and online services that make it easier for lodgers and homeowners to connect.”

Many are seeking alternative living arrangements to help make ends meet, but with the added benefits of companionship and a greater sense of purpose.

Read more: How Airbnb can affect everything from home building to mortgages

Financial Benefits

A lack of retirement savings may drive some empty-nesters to pursue outside sources of income by renting out a room. The average senior host earns about $6,000, hosting under 60 days a year.

More than half of all working-age households – and 43 percent of those in the top-third income bracket – haven’t saved enough to replace their income in retirement, Alicia H. Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research and a professor at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, tells the WSJ.

But there can be other reasons too. Airbnb says 41 percent of seniors report that hosting has allowed them to stay in the homes, where they’ve spent much of their lives.

Multigenerational Living

Airbnb isn’t the only way seniors are staying more connected.

A record 60.6 million people – or 19 percent of the U.S. population – live with multiple generations under one roof. The rise in multigenerational living among these older Americans is one reason why fewer now live alone than did in 1990, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census data.

Shared households are more common among underserved populations – including low- to moderate-income, minority, and immigrant populations – than other households. The reasons could be either cultural or economic, or both, but Fannie Mae research shows that in many cases, a co-resident is contributing 30 percent or more of the household income.

It’s one reason why Fannie Mae introduced the HomeReady® mortgage, which supports extended income households. HomeReady allows lenders to consider income from a household member who is not a borrower, so children, grandparents, other extended family members, and nonrelatives can help buyers qualify for a mortgage.

Read more: Why mortgage programs are starting to meet the needs of shared households

These expanded eligibility requirements and a growing number of builders are accommodating extended families.

Lennar’s NextGen model “offers a home within a home” floorplan with two living spaces under one roof. Pardee Homes created the GenSmart Suite, which has a private entrance; separate living, sleeping, and eating areas; and options for laundry and kitchenette spaces.

The extra suite is popular for adult children who have moved home or for grandma and grandpa. It allows residents to share space and time together, but still have privacy within the home.

Combating Isolation

With 76 million Baby Boomers heading into retirement – and as many as half lacking sufficient cash to reach old age – many families are rethinking their living arrangements.

Consider the Hotel Oakland Village, a unique and affordable senior living apartment community in Oakland, CA, that has become a model for healthy senior living.

The focus for their residents – many of them Asian immigrants – is on reducing isolation and taking control of their health.

Tom Azumbrado, a HUD director at the agency’s Multifamily Hub in San Francisco, told California Healthline that what Hotel Oakland offers is more complete than other federally subsidized residences that provide some of the same services.

He’s convinced the program at Hotel Oakland is improving seniors’ daily lives and outlook.

“When people are connected, that really helps them,” he says. He noted that a key factor in longevity is “people’s connection to others. Someone else loves them and makes them feel valued.”






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