BOWIE - There are plenty of websites and programs for young adults to find a roommate for a new apartment or house, but Bonnie Moore felt that seniors were often left out of the equation.
Now, senior citizens who are still active, refusing to live in a nursing home and have family living in far away areas, have the option to search for roommates through the Golden Girls Network.
“It was just the perfect name for my business. The minute you say ‘The Golden Girls,’ people know what you’re talking about. People love the show so they associate us with the show,” Moore said. “The idea is to create a networking capability for single mature women because it’s hard to make friends and find like-minded people.”
The Golden Girls Network, founded by Moore, has a home office located in Bowie and has been helping mature men and women find roommates for eight years. The network is a group of single mature women and men who love the idea of shared living with others and are looking for an economical lifestyle by forming senior communities together. The nationwide network is an electronic database that provides an opportunity for these adults to connect with compatible housemates.
Over a year ago, Moore began working with the Bowie Business Innovation Center to successfully attract capital and her process began with the 2015 StartRight! business plan competition. She was one of three women from Prince George’s County who placed in this year’s competition. She came in third place.
“Access to capital is a special challenge for young companies, especially young women-owned companies,” Lisa Smith, executive director of the Bowie Business Innovation Center. “In addition to the monetary award Golden Girls Network won from the 2015 StartRight! business plan competition, Moore got practice perfecting her company’s pitch to investors and the competition generated publicity and visibility for her company with prospective investors.”
The Golden Girls Network is now nationwide with 1,250 people registered after being up and running for only one year. Moore said the idea for the network developed as a result of her own personal experiences, which are also included in a book called “How To Start a Golden Girl Home,” currently available on Amazon.com.
“In 2003, my husband and I bought an original home in Bowie and we put a lot of time and effort into making it our dream home. In 2008 we split up and I often use the saying ‘sometimes remodeling causes divorce,’” Moore said. “Because of the recession, the value of my house plummeted, but I wanted to keep it. So I came up with the idea of getting roommates so that I can keep my house.”
Moore found several roommates who were close to her in age, the youngest person at 55 and the oldest person at 70, and in similar circumstances. She said people started asking her what it was like to live with a bunch of women and she found herself in business helping others start their own “Golden Girls” homes.
“After a couple of years I realized there were many women like me who ended up divorced when they weren’t expecting it, thrown into a financial disaster with not enough money for retirement, or not ready for retirement. In 2011, suddenly I was in business and the database went live in June 2014,” Moore said. “It seemed easier to create a database closer to Match.com where people can register as a homeowner or roommate. They can connect with each other and create their own Golden Girls home.”
The network does not do the matching for the user, but provides an opportunity for them to find other like-minded individuals who are also searching for an affordable friendly place to live through senior home sharing.
Josephine Brown, 62, was a local homeowner looking for roommates after a recent divorce and being on disability. She invested most of her 401k into her home and said she couldn’t walk away from it. Brown said she became lonely in the house all by herself.
“I have a very large house that I was living in with my sister, but then she wanted to move back to Annapolis, so I ended up all by myself in this big house,” Brown said. “I really like my house and it was a large investment. I have a quarter of acre land where I can garden, so I wanted to figure out how to keep this house and not be by myself.”
The network promotes shared housing for seniors in a group that share and manage the responsibilities equally. This can be done either through shared ownership or equally sharing a lease, a landlord/tenant arrangement where one person owns the home and others are roommates, or a homeowner and a home companion, where one person provides some household assistance and companionship for an older adult.
“My friend saw something about the Golden Girls on television and told me about it so I called Bonnie and she got me started. I set up a website and found a few roommates,” Brown said. “This actually helped me put a little extra money in my pocket with the mortgage, utilities and being able to go on vacations. I couldn’t have done this without Bonnie.”
Like many, Brown said she was a little skeptical about having people she barely knew sleeping in her house, but found women who meshed well and now considers them her friends.
“It’s no fun living by yourself and its no fun growing old by yourself. Loneliness leads to depression and depression leads to an early death,” Brown said. “Depression is a major factor in older people who are living alone so by having a roommate you minimize the loneliness factor. We want people to form bonds and grow old together.”