If "baby boomer women" is trending for anyone trying to
reach a powerful demographic, the stats they'll find are interesting to say the
least. It may also provide yet more evidence for the perennial popularity of The Golden Girls.
In 2010, 480,000 baby boomer women lived with a least one
unrelated female, according to an AARP analysis. The growing number of U.S.
HomeShare programs, which help connect people interested in sharing a house,
say their numbers have been steadily rising since the economy belly-flopped.
"This concept is really trending on the East and West Coasts
and is very big in Europe," says Ryan Cowmeadow, vice president of the National
Shared Housing Resource Center, an all-volunteer clearinghouse of HomeShare
programs. "Our numbers are up about 15% since 2007, and about 75% of applicants
are female," he adds. "We're hoping to see a real surge with the boomers
entering retirement age now. They're the ones who didn't take 'no' for an
answer. Home-sharing just makes sense."
Some may say the 1960s hippies are going back to the
commune. Others call this growing number of female baby boomers rooming
together "The Golden Girls
phenomenon." Either way, it's an opportunity.
Author Martha Nelson, who at 65 is on the leading edge of a
tsunami of retiring boomers, says it's really all about the importance of
choosing the company of friends.
"As a group, we've been empowered more than past generations
of women," says Nelson, whose debut novel, Black
Chokeberry, is the story of three disparate older women who unexpectedly
end up sharing a home. "We're more worldly, stronger, financially savvy and
healthier than our ancestors-through no fault of their own-and we know what we
Increasingly, what they want is to actively age with the
camaraderie, laughter, understanding and support of other women who share their
ideas of healthy lifestyles, good food from their own gardens, green living and
myriad activities on a moment's notice.
Nelson notes that there are several reasons why women more
than men are gravitating to communal living as an alternative lifestyle.
"Women typically live longer than men, and men are more
likely to remarry quickly after a divorce or the death of a spouse," she says.
"And fundamentally I think it's as much about the special bonds women share. We
form these wonderful, supportive, â€˜tell the truth' friendships, which survive
the demands of husbands, children and careers. Whether living alone or with a
spouse or partner, women cling to their friendships. When a woman considers
living alone as she ages, it's a natural progression to seek the company of her
The movement for co-housing-where residents have private
living spaces but share common areas, such as dining rooms, and tasks, such as
cooking-started in Denmark and is catching on in the United States. There are
model programs in Boulder, Colo., and other communities, including three
co-housing projects being planned in the greater Nashville area, where Nelson
Practical considerations of creating close living
communities include health and safety, care in times of an accident or medical
emergency, and saving money, a concern for many women who find themselves
single or widowed after long marriages, Nelson says.
But boomers are renowned for demanding more than creature
comforts from life, she adds.
"We want to be happy; we're healthy, active and we want to
enjoy ourselves as we age. We want to travel, go to a movie with a neighbor or
housemate, cook a meal, share a garden and feel that we are contributing to our
"What started with Rosie the Riveter has brought us to
this," says Nelson who is happily married again, but fascinated by the new
movement of co-housing. "We're strong women and we can choose to live the way
we want as we get older. Very often, that will mean with other women in close-knit