The '80s TV sitcom The Golden Girls mostly offered viewers bad acting and laugh tracks, but it gave Connie Skillingstad a good idea: older women who live together. Skillingstad is founder of Golden Girl Homes, a group that helps older widows, divorcees, and otherwise single women find or create alternative, affordable shared housing.
'Golden Girls is about helping open up the options for women,' says Skillingstad. Formed in 2001, the Twin Cities-based nonprofit is based on the premise that older women want, need, and deserve more diverse housing options than senior housing facilities or solitary living. For many women it is not financially feasible to purchase and maintain a house on their own, and single living may leave them feeling lonely and disconnected.
'A lot of women are interested in living in communities,' says Skillingstad, a
59-year-old social worker. 'The senior housing that's being built by developers is too expensive, and many women don't want to live in a senior housing complex.'
The Golden Girls solution is not so much matching up potential roommates as it is helping with the logistics of shared housing. To this end, the group, which includes about 200 women whose ages range from 40 into the 80s, meets monthly to discuss everything from the legal issues of these new-style households to the practicalities of living with people other than family. They are currently working to create a list of questions that potential roommates can ask each other to gauge their compatibility.
'Those of us who've raised kids and have worked our whole lives get to that point and say, 'Is that all there is?'' says Skillingstad, who hopes Golden Girl Homes ultimately will spread across the country. 'There ought to be something more fun.'