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How ‘The Golden Girls’ Can Help Solve a Problem Facing Senior Women

April 22, 2014
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How ‘The Golden Girls’ Can Help Solve a Problem Facing Senior Women
Actresses Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Bea Arthur arrive for the DVD release party for "The Golden Girls" the first season November 18, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. Carlo Allegri/Getty Images
As Baby Boomer women head into retirement, finances are tight. Could roommates be the answer?

“The Golden Girls” went off the air in 1992, but many of us still remember the show about four senior women sharing a home in Miami, in part because there hasn’t been anything else like it on T.V.

It turns out “The Golden Girls” was ahead of its time in more ways than one, and that its model of communal living—with some good-natured bickering thrown in—might provide a solution to a problem facing millions of Baby Boomer women as they reach retirement age. One third of Baby Boomer women live alone, and 50.8 percent of the 78.2 million Boomers in America are women. Many of these single women are divorced, a situation that often leaves their finances in disarray as they head into retirement.

According to the PBS NewsHour, the median income of senior women in Minneapolis was $11,000 less than that for men, which gave Connie Skillingstad an idea. She runs Golden Girl Homes, Inc., which helps match older women in the Twin Cities with others who’d like to reduce loneliness and split expenses by sharing a home. She told Spencer Michels of the NewsHour that each of the women who band together as roommates offers some asset that can help the others. “For example, there are women who have no money, but they have a house. They have space and they can share it with somebody, and it will help them to survive,” she said.

Karen Bush, Louise Machinist, and Jean McQuillan are longtime friends in their 60s, each of them divorced, who now share houses in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Sarasota, Florida. The women reach agreements about cooking, cleaning, finances, and what to do should any of them fall ill. They have legal documents in place stipulating what would happen if any of them are no longer able to take care of themselves. Together, they’re renovating their Florida condo to allow them to age in place. Bush told Michels, “The whole setup that we have here is going to help me be independent for a long time. And at the point at which I can no longer be independent, I will have additional resources to pay for what I need.”

Half a million women over the age of 50 in America live with roommates who are not romantic partners. Now this sounds like a case of smart women banding together to solve their own problems. Could a sitcom be next?

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