Tag Archives: shared housing

Are The Holidays Blue For You? How To Celebrate When You Live Alone

While Christmas might seem far off, the store shelves are already bulging. Sometimes our children and grandchildren are far away, travel is not possible, and we find ourselves left to our own devices. Time for creativity! With a bit of planning, your holiday season can be wonderful!

Plan Ahead…
If you know you are going to be alone, make some plans! Perhaps you belong to a social club – maybe you can throw a big potluck dinner for others who will also be alone for the holidays. One year, my Golden Girls household put together a Thanksgiving dinner for our single friends and it grew and grew, until we had 33 people for a sit down dinner and three turkeys! It turned into a really fabulous day with one group watching games on TV, another group handling the kitchen, and a third group setting the giant table that we put together. Another time, we gathered assorted relatives from three different families and celebrated together. Anything works as long as there is a turkey in the oven, pumpkin pie cooling somewhere, and you have dug out the tablecloth and cloth napkins!

Have a Multicultural Housemate Holiday Party!
The holiday season is a perfect excuse to throw a party! Any kind of party! Consider celebrating together and draw on each others family traditions and recipes to create a super-hybrid holiday season. One year, we had a cookie-making party…we invited friends, and made cookies all day, had cookie sheets everywhere, then gave them away. Another year, a Jewish roommate schooled us on Hanukkah tradition and we attended a musical event at a church. And of course, nothing is more magical than going to midnight mass with all of its pomp and ceremony. Honor your traditions and adopt some new ones. With the right planning and a variety of friends, you can make the holidays last from the first day of Hanukkah to Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa and finally, New Years’ Eve.

Spread the Cheer.
Don’t forget those special moments when you reach out to others. Many years ago, I participated with a group called The Holiday Project where we visited people in nursing homes on Christmas Day. It’s still around in some localities and there are similar groups. These seniors often don’t get visitors, and your few minutes with them are priceless, for you and for them. Maybe there is a Secret Santa group that needs a volunteer. Consider helping out at a local food bank or soup kitchen. It’s easy and rewarding. There are many websites, such as Volunteer Match, that are useful resources for finding these connections.

And here’s a thought… do you know a single mother who may be struggling to buy presents for her kids? Or is there someplace where you can adopt a family? You and a friend could surprise them with a bag full of goodies.

Don’t Be Shy!
Now’s the time to put yourself out in the world and try new things. Make the situation work for you. Do you have a close friend that hosts a holiday party every year?Don’t be shy – ask if you can come. I’ve done it many times, and I’ve always brought the wine or champagne. Do you know someone else who might be alone? Why don’t the two of you go to a nice restaurant? A good friend will appreciate that you want to spend the holiday with her.

My first year alone I couldn’t afford much, but I went to the Dollar Store and bought six ornaments and hung them on a plant in my living room. I still have those ornaments and each year, they remind me of how far I have come since those days.

Buy a box of old fashioned Christmas cards and write a holiday letter to everyone you know. Let the world know you are well and happy, and you will be.

Sharing Chores in a Golden Girls Home

Q: What About Chores in a Cooperative Household?

A: Cohouseholding Means Never Having to Scoop the Litter Box**

Contributed by Karen Bush, Louise Machinist and Jean McQuillin

choresThe authors lived in “Shadowlawn,” their 3-woman cooperative household for 11+ happy years until a retirement transition in 2015. Here’s a slice of life from summer 2013.

It’s a typical Sunday night at Shadowlawn– Louise on the porch, feet up, drink at hand, deep into a novel for book group next month; Karen cooking dinner; Jean scooping out Kali’s litter box in the basement. What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing’s wrong.

Everything’s right. Louise will clean up the kitchen—again. And put out the trash for collection. And she already did the daily Tweeting.

Chore sharing is the fourth most frequent subject that people ask us about. Coming right after the biggies—household conflict, romantic relationships, and money–someone usually throws in, “But who scoops the kitty box?” We used to share the scooping, taking turns on a whoever-thinks-of-it-first basis. Imagine Louise and Karen’s relief when Jean decided to take it over. Every week! And also to keep a steady supply of paper towels and toilet paper on the basement storage shelves. So Jean “owns” a specialty job category in our shared home: toileting hygiene. She has a system, a schedule, and the tasks always get done.

We’ve each adopted certain job specialties based on interest, skill or availability. Karen is always tech geek and skilled repairperson. Louise does grunt work (screens/storms, window well cleaning, scullery maid) but also has Martha Stewart home decorating moments.

We share most tasks without assigning them. Interestingly, we’ve found that we don’t need “rules,” because everyone carries a fair share of the load, balanced out over time.
Among us, we have the skills, determination or stupidity to tackle just about anything. Somehow, it seems less tiresome to do chores when it’s part of community. We’re all proactive. Nobody nags, but we might occasionally remind.

Two keys to success with chores are 1. Own responsibility, 2. Always do what you say you are going to do. We’ve got a little healthy competition going on, “Competency Competition.” In other words, I will do my fair share better than anyone else can do my fair share.

Before sharing a living situation with anyone, be sure that they have similar expectations about household lifestyle. (How neat? How clean? Who will do what?) Ed, Louise’s Dad, always said, “It’s the little things that count,” day-to-day. Consider: could an always-overflowing litter box sink your cooperative household?
**If you are lucky enough to have a housemate who chooses litter box scooping for her
own. Thank you, Jean!

Karen, Louise and Jean pioneered a new model of homesharing when they pooled resources and bought a house together in 2004. They coined the term cooperative householding: “two or more unrelated people co-owning and sharing a residence to gain financial, social, lifestyle and environmental benefits.”

Anticipating a growing wave of interest in alternative housing arrangements, they wrote My House Our House: Living Far Better for Far Less in a Cooperative Household, St. Lynn’s Press, 2013.

The authors’ professional backgrounds are in psychology, healthcare, education and consulting. They conduct informational seminars about cooperative householding. Step through the door of this cooperative household at www.facebook.com/MyHouseOurHouse and the My House Our House website: http://www.myhouseourhouse.com/.

Statistics on Shared Living

Remember Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia? More than an 80s sitcom that recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, The Golden Girls sparked a movement. From a surprising concept – who has housemates past their 20s? – shared living has become a national housing model that has been featured in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, ABC, PBS, and NPR. It’s credited as creating the “roommate generation” for baby boomers, and gives single baby boomers a way to find companionship, shore up their finances, and age in place – staying in their homes as they grow older.

With housing costs high and feelings of loneliness when children are grown and a spouse is no longer around, older adults are looking for answers. Today, the shared living movement is being embraced across the country as an exciting aging-in-place option for baby boomers.  Many people begin thinking about shared living following a divorce, the loss of a loved one, or another major life event. Demographic data indicate that in the wake of the recession shared living for mature adults is on the rise. In 2013, there were more than a million households where single people ages 46 to 64 shared housing with non-relatives, according to Bowling Green State University’s Center for Family and Demographic Research.

Further evidence of the shared housing trend and opportunity, according to the US Census Bureau, the number of unrelated women who live together has grown from 2.96 percent in 2005 to 3.8 percent in 2012. An AARP analysis of census data in 2014 found 132,000 households with 490,000 people in shared living situations. Not only is the number of older adults who are embracing shared living increasing, the number of areas where you can find shared living options is growing, too. The National Shared Housing Resource Center, a nonprofit that helps educate baby boomers and older adults about the benefits and options of shared living, lists 54 local, national, and international organizations that match roommates or find shared housing options that operate in 23 states. Golden Girls Network is the only national roommate matching service – featuring an online database that allows homeowners to find potential roommates and home seekers to find available rooms in their area (or another place they’d like to move).

Whether choosing shared living to offset costs of maintaining a home independently, companionship, security, or someone to help around the house, shared living makes it easier for baby boomers to age in place. And as baby boomers, we want to stay right where we are, thank you. AARP released a report in April 2014 that indicated 71% of adults aged 50 to 64 want to continue living where they are now. For adults age 65 and older, the number is even higher at 87%.

More than numbers, however, roommates point to the trend as being one of the best, unexpected elements of their retirement life. From holidays to everyday life, the companionship provides real benefits. Thanksgiving now brings multiple families together and provides a table for those without local relatives. And Sunday night dinner allows housemates to become friends – sharing the fun of their weekend and what’s on tap for their weeks with others in the same boat.

I found Golden Girls living when a divorce left me with a recently remodeled home and four empty bedrooms I could no longer afford on my own. I love to share my story. Want to learn more about shared living? Please contact me.

21 Inexpensive Ways to Have Fun With Your Golden Girls Housemates

21 Inexpensive Ways to Have Fun With Your

When you move into a Golden Girls home, you not only save money on housing, but can find great friends as well! But moving in with one or more strangers and getting to know new people can sometimes be difficult. Here are 21 ways to have fun with your housemates that won’t break the bank, but will turn new roommates into lifelong friends!


  1. Binge watch a favorite TV show. Don’t waste a perfectly good rainy day by watching TV alone. Grab your housemate and a bowl of popcorn and fire up your favorite old shows or the new ones you’ve been dying to watch.


  1. Schedule a morning walk. Make a habit of taking a morning walk together several times a week. Fitness is more fun and more likely to happen when you have a friend exercising with you.


  1. Enjoy a “Grandchildren Day.” Invite everyone’s grandkids over for fun. Arts and crafts? Barbecue and slip n’ slide? Embrace your inner child and come up with fun ideas for all the housemates to celebrate each other’s grandchildren.


  1. Have a picnic. Eating a meal outside just seems to make it special. Cart up the house’s dinner and take it to a nearby green space, or plan an outing together and grill at a favorite park.


  1. Join or start a team together. Whether it’s a bowling league, a golf team or a bocce ball league, playing a sport together is a great way to encourage a team spirit among your housemates on the field and at home.


  1. Stay-at-home spa day. Pull out the nail polish and facial masks and enjoy a spa day at home together. Soaking feet in warm water is a great way to break the ice for new roommates.


  1. Introduce a new housemate to your favorite place in town. Whether it’s a coffee shop, movie theater or local bookshop, take your housemate to a place you really enjoy in your community. Ask her to do the same. It will give you both insights into what makes the other person smile.


  1. Host a wine tasting. Have every housemate contribute an inexpensive bottle of wine. Try them in small sips and decide which one you like best. Wine.com is a great resource for finding short descriptions and ratings of wine. Have an alcohol-free home? Have a coffee tasting or sun tea tasting!


  1. Create a question bowl. Write open-ended questions on slips of paper and put them in a bowl in the middle of the breakfast table. Answering questions like “What was your favorite vacation?” and “Which superpower do you wish you had?” when you’re lounging around the table is a fun way to get to know your housemates.


  1. Cultural day. Take advantage of the museums or other arts opportunities in your area. Research before you go – most museums offer free tours that will give you and your housemates an even richer experience.


  1. Cook one meal a week together. Housemates can alternate who cooks the meal or everyone can chip in.


  1. Plant a garden. Have a green thumb? Work together with your housemates on a garden project! Or if a full vegetable garden isn’t your thing, clear a small patch together, grab a pack of mystery seeds and see what blooms. Friendship certainly will.


  1. Take a fitness class together. Check your local gym or senior center for a fitness class that you can take together. Area churches many times provide space for pay-as-you-go fitness classes such as Jazzercise and Zumba that do not require a long-term commitment.


  1. Create a birthday tradition. Celebrate the wonderful years your housemates have been on this planet by establishing a house birthday tradition. Keep it simple so that you’ll keep the tradition going; a cupcake and a favorite cup of coffee is a great way to let each other know you care.


  1. Book club. Hearing your housemate’s perspective of the book you’re reading is a wonderful way to get to know them. Alternate between the latest best seller and the classics.


  1. Plan a daytrip. Once a month, take turns planning a fun day out of town. That day spent on a hike, at an outlet mall or exploring the next town over will create inclusive, “Remember when…” memories for your group.


  1. Grocery shop together. Nothing makes the mundane task of grocery shopping more fun than strolling the aisles with a friend.


  1. Create a house music collection. Ask every housemate to go through their albums, tapes, CDs and iPods and select favorite songs. Then compile them to create a house music collection. A great way to start a morning or end an evening is with the gentle strains of everyone’s favorite music playing through the house.


  1. Play cards or a board game. A little healthy competition is a great way to get fired up with your housemates. Just remember to be nice! You still have to live together when the cards are put away.


  1. Dessert buffet. Indulge your sweet tooth and follow up dinner with a dessert buffet! Each housemate can cook or purchase their favorite dessert to contribute. Make it even more fun and invite other friends, too!


  1. Be spontaneous. You can’t always plan those moments when your housemate has a little more pep in her step and is ready for some fun. If she wants to chat or go for a walk or just get out of the house, go with it. The spontaneous fun you share with her now will build trust and affection for the future.


How else are you bonding with your housemates? We’d love to hear about your ideas! Share with us on Facebook!

3 Innovative Options that Make Aging in Place Possible

The old standard of retiring and shuffling off to a retirement community is being re-written by baby boomers who want to enjoy their homes, embrace their communities and age in place as long as they can. By renovating their homes, engaging in the “Village” model, and finding innovative solutions like the Golden Girls Network’s Home Companion program, it’s now possible for baby boomers to stay in their homes longer.

Only 7 percent of retirees have moved into a retirement community, according to a recent study, and 85 percent of retirees hope that when the time comes for long-term care, they can receive it at home. Why is aging in place more attractive to baby boomers than seeking the kinship and services of a retirement community?

  • Two-thirds of retirees say they are living in the best home of their lives. With work and family obligations no longer weighing on them, retirees have more freedom to choose the home and location that meets their wants instead of their needs.
  • Many retirees want to use their free time to re-connect with their communities and a majority of them (67 percent) want that community to be diverse in age rather than homogenous.
  • With family members living in different parts of the country, half of retirees are keeping their larger homes instead of downsizing to make it possible to welcome family back for vacations and holidays.

And to make staying in their homes more feasible, retirees are developing creative solutions.

Home remodeling – Home modifications for aging in place is the fastest growing segment of the residential remodeling industry, according to the National Association of Home Builders. 55+ households account for half of all home renovation spending. Many retirees are interested in making investments in technology – such as apps that control appliances, health sensors and cleaning robots – that make their homes safer and easier to maintain. The NAHB provides a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist designation to builders who have received education on the topic, and the AARP has a HomeFit Guide to guide homeowners through the process of making their home age-in-place ready.

The “Village” Model Neighbors Network – serving Winter Park, Maitland, Eatonville and other communities north of Orlando, Florida – is one example of the “Village” model, which involves coordinating volunteers to help with the inside-and-outside of the home tasks that might become difficult as a person ages. Minor home repairs, picking up and returning library books, and friendly visits are all benefits of becoming a member of Neighbors Network. They also provide access to paid professionals for services the Network can’t provide. The first “Village” – also known as virtual retirement community – was established in Boston in 2002, and the Village-to-Village Network helps to establish and manage models of it throughout the country.

Golden Girls Network – One of our goals at Golden Girls Network has always been helping people 50+ stay in their homes by matching them with like-minded housemates who can share expenses and provide companionship. Our Home Companion program will take our assistance to those who wish to age in place a step further. Managed by our soon-to-be-established Golden Girls Foundation, this program will match older Golden Girls with housemates who, in exchange for reduced rent, will handle household duties the homeowner is no longer able to handle on her own. This is not a replacement for a home health agency, but rather a great complement that allows women (or men!) to stay in their homes longer. We’re very excited about this new offering, and will release more details soon.

$58 Billion Unclaimed. Is Some of It Yours?

Today we welcome back guest contributor, Kay H. Bransford, who developed the award-winning MemoryBanc system to organize documents, accounts, and assets. You can read her previous article on how to downsize files and keep up with important documents here.

CNNMoney reported that $58 billion was sitting with state and federal treasurers. It is money lost in a move, a personal crisis, and death. It also includes life insurance, tax refunds, bank and retirement accounts that are forgotten or sit dormant after a death because loved ones didn’t know the assets or accounts existed. If you are planning or just moving into retirement, creating a roadmap to your documents, accounts, and assets is an excellent way to ensure you can easily find information when you need it, as well as prepare for a Plan B should a crisis emerge.

Our world is more complicated than it was just 20 years ago. One home phone number has turned into home and mobile phone accounts to manage; pensions now come in all forms of retirement plan options; and many companies and government agencies are pushing us online to manage medical reimbursements as well as account options. Because we haven’t yet adapted to manage all of this new information, the cost of disorganization to American families is now more than $58 billion and growing.

To see if some of the money sitting with state and federal treasurers is yours, visit MissingMoney.com. This site conglomerates the data from all 50 states. You can search by your name and it is a free service. You should search for yourself and loved ones—especially if you have lost a spouse or other close family member. My sister is the one that told me about this site. She found $2,500 of my dad’s that was sitting in Kansas. We moved from Kansas in 1969! If you find a possible match, you will be referred to the state site that will guide you through the process of validating your identity and claiming funds. We claimed my dad’s money and received the check in about 6 weeks.

If you use the site to search for loved ones, you have the option to email a notice if you have found some money that might be theirs. The site includes unclaimed bank accounts, safe deposit box contents; stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends; uncashed checks and wages; insurance policies, CD’s, trust funds; and utility deposits and escrow accounts.

Check out these additional sites to check for a variety of other unclaimed money pools:

  • To claim S. Treasury securities, look for the section marked “Individuals” and then find a link for “Treasury Hunt.”
  • Visit the FDIC website if you had an account in a failed financial institution.
  • A pension search is offered at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Look for the option under New Visitor? marked to “Looking for an Unclaimed Pension.”
  • To search for unclaimed 401(k) plans on The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits. Look for a large button to “Perform a Free Search.”

Take the first step to see if you might be able to claim some of the $58 billion. Happy Hunting!

Kay H. Bransford developed the award-winning system to organize documents, accounts, and assets. Golden Girls Network members will receive a 20% discount using the coupon code “Golden” on any order placed at MemoryBanc.com.

10 Tips for Finding a Great Golden Girls Roommate

Ready to join the movement of mature adults sharing housing? You’ll enjoy an affordable living situation and have the opportunity to make friends for life.

But like all good things, finding a great roommate takes work! But it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are 10 tips to help make your path toward shared housing an easy one.

  1. Join Golden Girls Network! Even if you search and don’t see anyone in your area immediately, join! If you don’t, the next woman (or man) that visits the site won’t know that you’re out there either.
  2. Create a detailed profile. Take the time to tell others what makes you a great roommate. Remember the old adage, “you only have one chance to make a first impression.” Make yours as fabulous as you are!
  3. Search! And, connect. Be proactive. Don’t wait for others to contact you. Search the network for others that fit your criteria, write to them, and get the conversation going.
  4. Respond! If you receive a message from an interested roommate, give her the courtesy of a response even if you’re in the process of talking to someone else, have already found another roommate, or aren’t interested. Be sure to respond directly to the member contacting you and double check your message is going to her – not back to Golden Girls Network. You’d hope for the same to your inquiries! Plus, you never – even if the person that contacts you isn’t the right fit, she might know someone who is.
  5. Stay engaged. Check your spam. Sometimes inquiries from members end up in your spam folder. Check there! To help inquiries land in your inbox, add info@goldengirlsnetwork.com to your email contacts.
  6. Search again. Didn’t find your match on your first day on the network? Look again! New members are joining daily so there’s always someone new that might be the right fit.
  7. Be flexible. Perhaps there isn’t a Golden Girls home right in your neighborhood. But have you considered one town over? Or a condo instead of a single-family home? We’d never recommend compromising on your non-negotiable criteria, but for other factors, be open to options and alternatives – it will greatly increase the pool of available homes and roommates and you might find something terrific you hadn’t previously considered!
  8. Take your time. Living with a stranger is a big commitment. While some homeowners offer month-to-month leases, even a few weeks can feel like an eternity if the roommate match isn’t a good fit. Spend time interviewing one another up front. Look for any red flags that might make the potential roommate simply not the right fit. There’s a home for everyone so don’t feel bad if you’re not the right lid for someone’s pot.
  9. Update your profile. Once you’ve found your match, update your profile to indicate that you’re not actively looking. You don’t have to leave the network – we love having you! Plus, should you need to move (for whatever reason!) or need to find an additional roommate, your profile will already be there and ready to go.
  10. Bottom line – make it happen! We can’t stress it enough – take an active role in finding your next home or roommate. Registering alone is not enough. You need to search, respond, and engage. By taking a few extra minutes, you’ll set yourself on a path to a great shared housing experience.

If you’re having trouble, we’re here to help! Email us at info@goldengirlsnetwork.com or call us at 301-383-1482 and our fabulous customer service manager, Regina, will be glad to help.

How Seniors Can Avoid Five Popular Online Scams

Although only 36 percent of Americans who reported that they were victims of Internet scams in 2014 were over 50, 50 percent of the recorded losses were from our age group. Americans over 50 lost $339 million last year to online scammers, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Criminals who send fraudulent emails claiming they’re a business, a government official or even a love interest target those of us over 50 because they think we’re an easy target. They think we may have a nice nest egg built up, we may be newer to the technology, or that we’re reluctant to report the crime because we don’t want to appear foolish or unable to manage our own lives. The ICCC believes only 15 percent of victims report the crimes to law enforcement and only 10 percent report them to the ICCC.

If an online criminal has stolen your money or identity, report them. It’s the only way they will be stopped. The AARP Foundation’s ElderWatch program helps individuals fight scammers.

But before it gets to that, here are five of the most reported Internet scams of last year and how to avoid them:

Government Impersonation Email Scam

Scammers sending emails posing as government officials or entities – especially Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey – were able to gain personal information costing people over 50 $6,067,072 in 2014, with an average of $1,450 lost per complaint. Fifty-eight percent of the complaints came from those over 50.

Ways to avoid:

  • Remember: government agencies do not send unsolicited emails.
  • Don’t reply, open any attachments, or click on any links. They can contain malicious code that may infect your computer or mobile phone.
  • Avoid filling out forms in e-mail messages asking for personal information.
  • Forward phishing emails to spam@uce.gov and to the organization impersonated in the email. IRS emails can be sent directly to phishing@irs.gov.
  • Delete the email.

The Intimidation/Extortion Scam

The intimidation/extortion scam involves repeated and harassing emails and calls notifying the victim that a loan is due and must be paid in full. The fraudster usually knows your personal information but will give little information about the loan. Victims are threatened with legal action, arrest and personal violence if they refuse to pay. While only 36 percent of last year’s complainants were over 50, 58 percent of the money extorted — $9,492,910 – came from this age group.

Ways to avoid:

  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals located outside the country.
  • Research individuals to ensure they are legitimate before doing any type of business with them.
  • Report harassing and threatening behavior to the authorities. 

The Romance Scam

The romance scam is a particularly nefarious scam where people are contacted through a website, chat room, or social network by someone looking for companionship or love. This is a slow-moving scam, where intimacy is built up over time until the victim is emotionally attached. Then the criminal presents a convincing scenario – such as a family tragedy or emergency – and asks for money. Of the $86 million (yes, you read that right!!) stolen last year, 70 percent of that came from people over 50 and 59 percent of that — $50,987,931 – came from women over 50.

Ways to avoid:

  • Limit the amount of personal information you reveal on social networking sites.
  • Look for the following red flags if contacted by a romantic stranger online. They could be a fraudster if:
    • They claim to be originally from the United States, but are currently overseas, or going overseas, for business or family matters.
    • They immediately want to get off the web site and onto Yahoo IM or MSN IM.
    • They claim the romance was destiny or fate, and you are meant to be together.
    • Their spelling is atrocious, and their grammar is not consistent with their stated culture.
    • They are not usually around on the weekends to IM.
    • They IM at unusual hours for your time zone.
    • To learn more about romance scams, you can check out RomanceScams.org

Real Estate Fraud

If you’re reading our blog on Golden Girls Network, we know you’re concerned about affordable housing options! Unfortunately there are nasty folks out there who are targeting those of us over 50 seeking affordable housing. Sixty four percent of the $12,598,388 in financial losses to this prevalent fraud last year were by the over 50 crowd. Scammers re-post legitimate housing ads far below rental market value. They typically try to rush the transaction, request that payment be sent by wire funds through a wire transfer service, and may even ask you to fill out credit applications.

Ways to avoid:

  • Be cautious of an individual or company who only accepts wire transfers, pre-paid cards, or cash.
  • Be on alert if they e-mail stating they have to leave the area quickly due to employment or volunteer work. Some claim they left the United States for missionary or contract work in another country.
  • Pay attention to the AARP Foundation ElderWatch’s simplest red flag: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Ignore the deals and stick with legitimate, affordable housing you find on GoldenGirlsNetwork.com


Auto Fraud 

The auto fraud scam varies but generally it involves a car posted on a legitimate website that is far under market value. The fraudster claims they must sell the car quickly and will not meet in person, will not allow an inspection and tries to rush the sell. To make the deal appear legitimate, the criminal instructs the victim to wire full or partial payment to a third-party agent and to fax the payment receipt to the seller as proof of payment. The fraudster keeps the money but does not deliver the vehicle. This is an equal opportunity crime: in 2014, every age group over 30 was equally affected, with 16,861 victims losing an average of $3,334 per person.

Ways to avoid:

  • Make sure you are purchasing merchandise from a reputable source. Do your homework on the individual or company to ensure that they are legitimate.
  • Obtain a physical address rather than simply a post office box and a telephone number, and call the seller to see if the telephone number is correct and working.
  • Consider not purchasing from sellers who won’t provide you with proper personal and auto information.

Escape the Vacation Rut with a Volunteer Vacation

“Volunteer” and “vacation” may seem like a contradiction of terms – why work on your relaxing holiday? But some travelers over 50 are trading sunning on beaches, standing in line at crowded tourist traps, and taking tours that make you feel like you’re looking at the culture from behind a window for more of an experience. Here are five ways volunteer vacations – also known as voluntourism – can provide boomers with more than photos (and a sun burn) at the end of the adventure.

1. Experience a people, a culture, and an area more richly.

It’s possible to see the Greek island of Crete, the rural countryside of China or the lions of Kenya from the comfort of a tour bus. But with GlobalVolunteers.org, you can fully immerse yourself in the Greek culture as you travel from the coast to a mountaintop school every day for two weeks to teach English to youth and adults with special needs. Volunteer vacations range from one week to months, and depending on how much time you want to spend and how you want to serve, can give you the opportunity to authentically know a people, an area or an effort. You can explore China’s Guangzhou City and its rural outskirts while you build a house for a family with Habitat for Humanity. Or you can track lions and their prey in Kenya with the Earthwatch Institute.

2. Try out new skills or a new industry to prep for a job change.

Thinking about a late career change or finding that doing nothing in retirement isn’t your cup of tea? Skills-based volunteering is a way to learn more about specific industries, gain experience working on different types of teams and gain exposure working in different organizations, according to Mark Horoszowski, co-founder of MovingWorlds.org. Moving Worlds connects people who want to volunteer their skills with social impact organizations around the world. Human resource experts can work in Mexico City for 2-6 months helping find staff for clinics for the blind, and grant writers can work up to two years in India helping to support a wood stove company that reduces toxic fumes and wood consumption.

3. Save money and still enjoy that dream destination.

Volunteer vacations aren’t inherently cheap – many organizations use a portion of what you pay for the trip to contribute to their efforts. Habitat for Humanity uses about half of your trip’s cost to pay for their building efforts. But it is possible to find trips that are inexpensive. MovingWorlds.org offers opportunities that cover the cost of accommodations and/or meals for a one-time $125 membership fee, saving international travelers about $1,500 a week. Globe Aware charges between $700-$1100 for its 1-2 week trips, which covers accommodations, meals, on-site travel, and program expenses. Their website provides info on how to pay your costs with scholarships and other fundraising efforts. Airfare is seldom covered by volunteer vacation opportunities, but FlyforGood.com offers discounted travel for volunteers involved in international humanitarian work.

4. Bond with your Golden Girls housemates.

What better way to connect with your Golden Girls housemates than to share a life-changing experience like volunteering abroad with them? Depending on how large your house is, you may be able to sign up for one of the group or family volunteer vacations offered by many organizations. Both GlobalVolunteers.org and GVIUSA.com put together opportunities for groups. Working together as a house allows you to jointly see the impact of your service, and pooling your efforts to fundraise can help the money-raising process feel less arduous.

5. Give back.

Rather than spending your vacation relaxing on a beach, volunteer vacations can give you the opportunity to affect causes you really care about. Opportunities abound (both nationally and internationally) working with varying groups with volunteer needs. Andrew Mersmann’s blog ChangebyDoing.com highlights the latest volunteer opportunities. This article from TransitionsAbroad.com highlights senior-friendly volunteer vacations. Still can’t find a volunteer vacation you’re interested in? Consider doing it yourself. Put together a trip to an area where you’d like to chip in and call a local service organization with an offer to lend a hand.

How Do I Choose A Roommate?


Last month, we discussed how to find Golden Girls housemates. Now, that you have emails pouring in from people eager to create a comfortable and interesting shared-living arrangement with you, how do you choose a lucky housemate?

Consider the Kind Of Living Arrangement You Want to Have

Each Golden Girls Home develops its own culture and style, and each member makes the house feel like home. But the style of the home is always unique.

Sometimes, a Golden Girls Home is adults comfortably living together and maintaining a certain independence: cooking and eating separately, holding informal house meetings, and keeping busy schedules with an occasional dinner together, a movie, or a birthday party.

In other situations, it is a group that desires a more family-like atmosphere, often called “co-housing.” These groups share kitchen duties and plan dinners together. They hold regular house meetings, make joint decisions, and plan shared activities.

It’s important for the members of the household to have a similar vision of culture and style, so consider the style of living arrangement you’d like to have when you begin interviewing roommates.

Connecting With Your Potential Housemate

  • If you like the way the person presents herself in the email application, reply with something like this: “I am looking for a woman between the ages of X to Y who is a non-smoker with no pets. Tell me a little more about yourself.” When she replies, ask for a phone number and set up a time to call her. (Don’t give your address yet!)
  • Get to know the applicant on the phone. Cover your basic issues such as smoking or pets and then see whether you two can communicate easily and whether you like her personality. Trust your intuition. If you don’t get a good vibe over the phone, politely tell her that you don’t think this is the right match. You do not have to give a reason.
  • If all goes well, invite her for a face-to-face interview in two to three days. (If you aren’t comfortable interviewing alone, ask a friend to interview with you.)
  • During the in-person interview, have a list of questions that will help you assess her personality and circumstances. Look for any cultural or lifestyle differences that you think might be difficult. Golden Girls Network encourages diversity, but sometimes very different people can’t live easily in the same house.

Traits to Consider During the Interview

Be honest with yourself about whether you think you could get along with the potential housemate’s personality. If she’s assertive and outgoing but you’re quiet and bookish, this probably isn’t a good match.

  • Age: People in different age groups may have different lifestyles. So, as a rule, we suggest looking for roommates within 10 to 20 years of your age.
  • Neatness: Most roommates are clean and tidy. But some clean obsessively while others embrace the philosophy “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Find someone whose neat meter is close to yours.
  • Deal Breakers: Be clear about your desires concerning smoking, pets, firearms and alcohol use in the home. These are deal breakers if the potential housemate has widely different views or needs.
  • Religion: If you have a strong affiliation with a particular religion, examine how important it is to you to have someone with a similar affiliation. You can’t discriminate in housing based on religious preferences, but you have a right to choose carefully when you are living in the same spaces.
  • Cultural Differences: Think about whether your customs may seem strange to others. In some cultures, it is common to speak loudly and to sound like you are arguing (when in fact, you aren’t!), and in other cultures, people have a quieter way of talking to each other. Would your cultural habits be difficult for someone from another culture?
  • Food Choices: Eating habits should be considered in some situations. What if you are not a meat eater, and someone cooks bacon every morning? Could you tolerate the smell and the occasional bacon grease?
  • Work: What if you have a housemate whose work requires that they leave early in the morning or come home late at night? If you are retired or not employed, you might look for someone who is in the same situation and who might become a companion or a best friend.
  • Social Preferences: Consider whether you’re a good match in terms of how much you both like to socialize. Do you invite people over to the house frequently, and would it be OK for a housemate to invite people over often? Some housemates may prefer a quiet house, while for others it may feel like a tomb.

Know yourself! This is your home and your living environment, so it’s okay to take your time looking for the perfect housemate. Next month, we’ll discuss how to put your housing agreement on paper.

Excerpt from “How to Start a Golden Girls Home” by Bonnie Moore. Click here for more info or your own copy.