Pitfalls and Pleasures of Roommates in Assisted Living

Having a roommate helps keep costs down and since private rooms in assisted living facilities command higher prices, it can be a huge benefit.

Many seniors and their caregivers find that adjusting to an assisted living facility can be challenging. Especially if the elderly person is moving into a solitary situation, the transition can be emotional, frustrating, and lonely. For this reason, and several others, some seniors seek out roommates in their assisted living facilities. Some find they enjoy this shared lifestyle very much.

Financial stability is a key reason why some seniors seek out roommates. Having a roommate helps keep costs down, since private rooms in assisted living facilities command higher prices.

Although financial concerns are important, compatibility of personalities should be a priority when considering a shared space. Factors relating to harmonizing well with a roommate are considered below.


Compatible Habits Aid Roommates in Assisted Living

For many seniors, their schedules for eating, sleeping, bathing, taking medications, exercising, and socializing are more than just preferences. Some seniors need these routines to be healthy and happy. Especially when it comes to sleep, compromise is not always wise. Someone who is an early riser might disturb someone who sleeps in. Night owls might make noise and require light that disturbs those who are early to bed.

Differences in schedule with overlaps of an hour or so are probably tolerable. However, drastic differences can cause strife and even health problems.

Most adults can comfortably adjust their habits to those of another person when sharing space. Some seniors, though, may have trouble adapting. If one elderly roommate makes a habit out of watching television at high volume, while the other prefers tranquil silence while reading, there could be strife. Another example might be a roommate who bathes for long periods of time, taking up the bathroom. Yet another might be a roommate with a love of gardening who tracks in allergenic plant life. Discussing habits and rituals that might disturb the other person beforehand may prevent conflicts.


Privacy Standards in Shared Assisted Living Spaces

In some assisted living facilities, roommates do not share anything more than a living room area. In others, they might share a bedroom, or something in between. Much will depend on the layout of an assisted living facility’s living quarters. Therefore, it is also important to understand what standards of privacy are important to both potential roommates. A top order of business is to negotiate mutually agreeable privacy standards and to set up a structure for later adjustments. Importantly, roommates should agree on what kinds of habits would support these standards.

It is always important to leave room for opting out. Family members should investigate the ease of switching to a private room or changing roommates. At some facilities, transitioning to a new space is easy. At others, a lot of time, energy, and paperwork are required to do so.


The Only Constant Is Change

It is important to remember that an elderly loved one and/or a roommate might need additional care at some point. In some facilities, this means the person must move to a different part of the building. In others, the person must relocate to a new building altogether.

It helps to plan for worst-case scenarios requiring sudden change. Plans should be flexible enough to accommodate an elderly loved one suddenly needing a new roommate. There may be many reasons for sudden changes. Perhaps it becomes clear that an elderly loved one is better off living without a roommate after all. Flexible plans take into account the possibility that, for some reason, a roommate is suddenly unable to pay for  care at an assisted living home. This happens more frequently than one might think, and it can leave roommates stranded. As with any other roommate arrangement in adulthood, flexible plans and prior discussions of financial matters are called for.

Planning ahead for adjustments and change is advisable when considering assisted living. Doing so can make an elderly person’s life there—with or without a roommate—much more pleasant.



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