More retirees living like the 'Golden Girls'

More retirees living like the 'Golden Girls'

Older single women aren't looking for love. They're looking for a roommate.

Blessed with longer life expectancy, but often with less money in the bank, female retirees are turning to each other as a way to make ends meet and find companionship.

Airbnb, the online marketplace for housing rentals, says the 60 and older crowd is its fastest growing demographic — with the number of hosts more than doubling in the last year. The majority of them — about 64 percent — are women.

"What it comes down to is women retire with two-thirds the money as men, and women live 5 to 8 years longer," said Sallie Krawcheck, founder of Ellevest, an online advisor for women.

Krawcheck calls the retirement savings crisis a woman's crisis.

"It is the woman who at the end of her life, is left trying to figure out how much money she can spend so she doesn't run out before she dies," she said.

While finances plays a role, for women like Mariam Ephraim, 69, it came down to no longer wanting to live alone.

After several health scares, she decided to search for a housemate to share her two-bedroom 1,100-square-foot Tempe, Arizona, home.

What it comes down to is women retire with two-thirds the money as men, and women live 5 to 8 years longer.
Sallie Krawcheck
founder of Ellevest 

"I've ended up alone on the floor and had to call the fire department," Ephraim said. "That's a very frightening thing when you can't get up and there's nobody there."

She found her current roommate via website Silvernest, which caters to those 55 and older, matching prospective renters with homeowners. The company says 70 percent of homeowners using the site are women.

The new Golden Girls

Scene for the show The Golden Girls.
ABC | Getty Images

Think of them as modern-day "Golden Girls," the iconic NBC series from the 1980s about four senior citizens sharing a house in Miami (Disclosure: NBC is owned by Comcast, the parent company of CNBC.)

While the Hollywood version is full of laughs and memorable one-liners, women in real life acknowledge becoming a roommate later in life presents certain challenges.

"You live by yourself, you get set in your ways, you don't have to deal with other personalities," said 55-year-old Meeghan Kanaval, Ephraim's current roommate.

Kanaval, who had been renting an apartment for years, chose to try home sharing as a way to cut down her expenses and save.

"Women earn less throughout their lives, so owning a home is something a lot haven't achieved," said Jeff Hayes, project director at the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

After several months of home-sharing, the women — who both claim to have a bit of Golden Girls actress Bea Arthur in them — are still adjusting to life with each other as well as Ephraim's several cats and dog, Brady.

So far, the arrangement appears to be working out.

"I think the premise is great," Ephraim said. "To be independent and still age in place. It's good to make a way for others to come into your life."