Shared Housing for Women – Why Now?
I met Karen Venable, CEO and Founder of Roommates4Boomers, several years ago at a convention. Roommates4Boomers is a national website that matches baby-boomer generation women who want to share housing. I thought Karen’s idea was brilliant (and that her service is sorely needed, since one-third of women over 50 are single) and we became fast friends. We’ve been working together on her website and outreach ever since.
One of the underlying principles behind Roommates4Boomers is the value of living in peace, harmony, and community, which aligns, in my view, with the basic principles of Transcendental Meditation, which I had learned so long ago. I thought it might be useful to explain just how the act of finding compatible roommates for women who want to share their homes with other like-minded women brings a sense of happiness and health to so many. I asked Karen a series of questions to share in this post.
AVB – What motivated you to start your service for women?
KV – Like many women going through midlife changes, I went through a divorce in my mid-fifties, and I needed a new direction in my life. My kids were grown and I was ready for a change; I wanted to find new meaning. By chance, my neighbor and friend was going through a similar situation. She owned a home with extra room and I had recently sold my home, and she asked me to move in with her. We both wondered what we were doing and whether it would work, and as it turned out we had a wonderful experience sharing time together and benefitting from shared living.
Like many women going through midlife changes, I went through a divorce in my mid-fifties, and I needed a new direction in my life. My kids were grown and I was ready for a change; I wanted to find new meaning. By chance, my neighbor and friend was going through a similar situation. She owned a home with extra room and I had recently sold my home, and she asked me to move in with her. We both wondered what we were doing and whether it would work, and as it turned out we had a wonderful experience sharing time together and benefitting from shared living.
What happened next really surprised me. Many of my friends noticed how happy I was. They started asking themselves the same questions as many women do in mid-life: What am I doing? Where do I want to live? Who do I want to live with? What changes can I make to have a more fulfilled life? So, having a business background and an MBA in finance, I began to research what services were available for matching roommates in our demographic. I found that there were roommate matching services, but only for college kids. Social service agencies and religious organizations assist their communities in searching for shared housing, but there was no real place to go except Craigslist for a matching service for housing for mid-life women. That is how Roommates4Boomers got started.
AVB – Please explain what the service does and how it finds compatible roommates?
KV – Roommates4Boomers is a subscription-based service that matches boomer women and shared housing. To begin searching for a roommate, you enter the zip code for the area you are interested in living and then begin answering question regarding compatibility. The questions ask such things as: Are you a smoker? Do you have pets? Do you drink? More questions cover such things as preferences on bedrooms, sharing bathrooms, work schedules, food preferences, and likelihood of out-of-town guests, to name a few. Depending on the answers to these questions, you’re shown the availability of women in your area. Once you find a person you want to contact, you pay a monthly fee of $29.99 but you can discontinue use of the service at any time.
AVB – What are the expectations in terms of national outreach? How will Roommates4Boomers go about building a critical mass to make it possible for women everywhere to find compatible roommates?
KV – We’re working with both local organizations and national organizations for national outreach. We’ve worked with the National Council on Aging, Encore.org, The Village to Village Movement, TTN – Shared Housing San Francisco, Living in Community – Sarasota, Florida, and most recently, TM for Women. We are just beginning campaigns with Facebook and Google Ads. But interestingly, the majority of our matches come through word of mouth or organic search which demonstrates there’s a real demand for shared housing among women over 50.
AVB – What are the demographics? How has it been working out with the women matched up so far?
KV – The women we are trying to reach are women between 50 and 70. Many are looking to find shared housing because they want to stay in their own homes, they want community, they have safety and health concerns, or financial considerations are motivating them. Many are looking to share their homes as part of the Aging-in-Place movement. Five thousand women turn 65 every day—It’s estimated that there are 35 million over 50 now, and within 20 years that number is expected to grow to 100 million.
Roommates4Boomers is a nationwide matching service. Interviews with various members indicate they are finding new friends and community and/or receiving financial benefits from the arrangement. To avoid any potential problems, we strongly encourage members to get to know each other as well as possible before moving in together.
AVB – What motivated Roomates4Boomers to partner with TM for Women?
KV – Like many women our age, I was looking for ways to feel better about myself, reduce my stress level and feel more positive about life, and I came across Transcendental Meditation for Women’s website. I contacted Vanessa Vidal, the National Director, about the possibility of partnering in some way. Through talking with her and researching the website, I realized that the number of women practicing TM is impressive, and for those who’ve learned the technique and wish to participate in further programs, there is a growing, like-minded community. As the members of Roommates4Boomers are also part of a women’s community, I thought it would be a good fit for us to work together.
AVB – The benefits of TM include increased tolerance, calmness, self-esteem and inner happiness as well as improved interpersonal relationships. Do you feel these benefits would make your subscribers better roommates?
KV – I know that anything that brings anxiety under control, brings inner happiness, and improves self-esteem will help in everyday living situations. The Transcendental Meditation technique is an effective tool for doing just that. We look forward to finding ways to collaborate with TM for Women in order to enhance the lives and living situations of our members.
About the Author
Ann Voorhees Baker is a web designer, writer, and social media marketing specialist who organizes an annual national gathering for women over 50 called Women At Woodstock. She has been practicing TM since learning the technique in her late 20s.