Finding a compatible roommate can be tough for anyone, but is an even greater challenge as we age and consequently become more set in our ways.
“Aging in place” is often a primary goal for many aging baby boomers and older seniors not wanting to leave their homes for less desirable options. It is, however, becoming increasingly more difficult to attain, as many cannot afford to live alone. Others suffer from loneliness after the loss of a spouse or friends, and others still need some kind of support.
Home sharing—in which one person moves into the home of another—is becoming a popular alternative option for many, including West Hollywood residents Kimberly Hyde-Scott and Sylvia Davenport, who found each other through Alternative Living for the Aging (ALA).
Hyde-Scott, 66, a somewhat fragile woman with long blond hair, suffers from scoliosis, a severe curvature of the spine. “My son was living with me, but moved out of state,” she said. “I needed help with chores and really wanted company.”
Dark-haired and vivacious, 54-year-old Davenport, needed an affordable place to live after her mother, whom she had been caring for, passed away. After several comprehensive interviews with an ALA housing coordinator, the match was made and Davenport moved into Hyde-Scott's two-bedroom apartment.
Founded in West Hollywood in 1978 by trailblazer Janet Witkin, Alternative Living for the Aging started out as a roommate matching service for seniors who wanted to stay in their homes. Witkin, who died at the age of 62 in 2009, then expanded ALA to include co-op housing units that enabled group living among the elderly.
Patch visited Hyde-Scott and Davenport at the home they now share and found the two women eager to talk about how the “match” was working.
“I immediately knew that Sylvia would be great,” Hyde-Scott said. “It was a strong feeling and it turned out to be right.”
Davenport had visited several other places in her search for affordable housing before she contacted ALA.
“I knew right away that it was a good fit with Kimberly,” Davenport said. “I had even lived a few blocks away many years ago.”
When asked by Patch about the possible challenges of getting along, both women acknowledged that they had faced a few rough spots, but found their way through them.
“We both want this to be good,” added Davenport, "so we make sure that we talk about things.”
That kind of communication was a little more of a challenge for Hyde-Scott, who used to “walk away from controversy.” Now, she said, “This is too important and I want it to be a success, so I’ve learned to talk about things.”
Although ALA does not check criminal records, they do check the national database of registered sex offenders and also verify income stability by viewing income documentation.
"We require two character references and will also assist seniors in using a criminal background service, at no cost to the client,” said Rachel Caraviello, Vice President of Programs and Services.
Now headed by President/CEO David Grunwald, ALA is in the process of re-branding itself and will soon be called Affordable Living for the Aging. Scheduled to break ground later this year at the Janet L. Witkin Center, its former office location in West Hollywood, ALA more than doubled the number of residents served in October 2010, by acquiring Bonnie Brae Village, an affordable senior housing community in Los Angeles.
ALA also assumed control of a subcontract with the Department of Mental Health to add a supportive housing component to resident services. Today the ALA governing board is recharged with its sights on providing impactful service to formerly homeless and low-income seniors in need of a permanent home.
Hyde-Scott and Davenport have been living together for almost two months and both are eager to make it work. “Moving in with Kimberly is like coming home,” said Davenport.
Operating the only home share program in Los Angeles County, ALA assists clients in conducting criminal background checks for a fee and requires that one participant is over 55 years of age. For more information, call 323-650-7988 or visit www.alternativeliving.org.