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American Seniors Now Finding Roommates Online, But Is It Safe?

On Behalf of | Mar 23, 2018 | Elder Law

The soaring costs of living around the United States have made it increasingly difficult for everyone, but especially senior citizens, to find affordable housing. This has caused many to turn to technology to try and solve this growing problem. In certain parts of the country, there has been a proliferation of digital applications or “apps” dedicated to helping senior citizens find affordable living situations. But these apps are not without their drawbacks and dangers.

One such app is called Nesterly. It’s targeted toward elderly homeowners, and the idea is to match these homeowners with college students who are willing to do household chores in exchange for reduced rent. The idea is that by pairing intergenerational roommates, both parties will gain something.

The app debuted in the Boston area, where, like in other parts of the country, the population is aging. Between 2010 and 2030, the number of Boston residents who are 60 years or older is expected to increase by 65%. (This app is not currently available in Pennsylvania.)

Nationally, households that are headed by an individual who is at least 65 years old will account for one-third of all households in the United States by 2035—a total of 49.6 million. Uncertainty about Medicaid, Social Security, and healthcare expenses in general create a frightening prospect of soaring medical costs combined with less of a social safety net, so more seniors are looking online for answers.

Apps such as Nesterly, or organizations such as the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens, a Manhattan-based nonprofit that matches seniors looking for renters with people looking for affordable housing, can be great options for elderly people who need financial assistance. Another option is the Golden Girls Network, which matches older adults looking for housemates.

However, if you or a loved one intends to start looking through an app for a roommate, you should be aware that senior citizens are a frequent target of financial abuse, and these new apps may not always be in a position to protect them. In fact, sometimes the apps or websites take advantage of senior renters. For example, the New York Times recounted a case of a Craigslist ad for a New York one-bedroom apartment. Prospective renters were invited to fill out applications with personal information, and some did…before it was discovered that the “apartment” actually belonged to another NY resident, who had no idea scammers were using it to steal identities.

According to the National Adult Protection Services Association (NAPSA), financial abuse of elders in the United States has increased significantly in the past decade. NAPSA’s statistics show that one in nine seniors has reported being abused, neglected, or exploited in the past year, and that the rate of financial exploitation is at 5%. On top of that, because elder abuse is grossly underreported (i.e., only one in 44 cases of financial abuse actually gets reported), the actual rate of abuse is certainly much higher.

Tragically, NAPSA’s studies have shown that seniors are three times more likely to die and four times more likely to enter a personal care home after such abuse. Do not take a chance!

If you have any reason to suspect that you or your loved one is being financially abused, you should seek help from a certified elder law attorney immediately. The legal team at Kreisher Marshall & Associates, LLC has made it their priority to protect Pennsylvania seniors from all forms of abuse. Call today at (570) 784-5211 and to schedule a free consultation.