Old idea made new: shared housing

County Commission on Aging hosts presentation on roommate connections, creative housing options

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter



Shared Housing

WHAT: A roommate-matching program intended for senior citizens.

LEARN MORE: 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

WHERE: Vancouver Community Library, 901 C Street.


CALL: 503-719-5444.

Why would anyone ever want a roommate?

When you're young, it's to build some friendship, support and burden-sharing into your life. Sharing space and pooling resources means an easier time with the bills, the chores, the meals -- not to mention the general, ongoing ups-and-downs of life.

It doesn't need to be any different when you're older. During times of transition, isolation and economic stress, there's nothing like knowing you've got some built-in support right down the hallway.

On Tuesday the Clark County Commission on Aging will host a presentation on "Shared Housing" at the Vancouver Community Library. Zoe Morrison and Michele Fiasca, career veterans in the field of senior citizen care and services, will be spreading the word about their nonprofit agency, Let's Share Housing, and its roommate-matching website. It's all part of the commission's efforts to find diverse, lower-cost housing options for the county's aging population.

Shared housing doesn't have to be roommates finding each other and finding a place together; it can be a single tenant or family with an extra room deciding to rent it out. But the underlying idea, Morrison said, is that independent, physically capable seniors who want to share some burdens -- and probably can't afford what Morrison calls "boutique" living arrangements, that is, costly retirement homes that provide meals and services — can move in together and support one another.

Morrison lives in such a situation now. A few years back, she said, she was exiting a relationship with zero savings and few prospects. It was her friend Fiasca who suggested a good old-fashioned roomie arrangement.

It eased Morrison's way to a new life — and it gave her a mission, moving forward. "We started reaching out to more people," she said.

What she and Fiasca discovered, she said, was that it wasn't always desperate, needy people who sought out roommate situations. There were many more "professional women" of a certain age who were making changes in their lives — things like divorce,

career switch, retirement, and wanting to be near an adult child. "That was the demographic that came to us, repeatedly," she said.

There were also people who had "lived a long time and were just looking to share their lives. They may have been isolated and depressed. They may miss having a family." Putting them together with peers in a way that's beneficial to all is "rebuilding community," Morrison said. "That's how I look at it."

On the other hand, some people have a tough time with negotiation and compromise, she said. "Some people are good at it and some people aren't," Morrison said. "Some people never had a roommate, and it's almost like a four-letter word to them."

If you spell roommate with more than four letters, check out the website https://letssharehousing.com. It has been up and running for a few years, Morrison said, but it just was upgraded into something more like a social networking page where folks can start chatting with potential roommates.

It remains crucial to meet those potential roommates face to face, she added -- because that's how life will be when you're sharing a kitchen and a bathroom -- so you're encouraged to attend the presentation at the library. It's set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at 901 C Street.

If you take to the idea, additional training sessions will cover the details in more depth -- things like roommate interviews and expectations, shared budgeting and safety.

Shared housing is not emergency housing; don't turn to it expecting quick shelter, Morrison said.

For more information about Let's Share Housing, call 503-719-5444.