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Accommodation for older Aussies – what are the options?

Australia’s demographic landscape is changing, and older Aussies are coming along for the ride, including many who’d rather not.

For those, circumstances have combined to force them into unfamiliar new living arrangements. With renting or owning no longer an option, ‘accommodation’ has become the new buzz word.

Accommodation can mean different things to different people. It might mean a return to the days my parents used to talk about – the days of lodging. For some older Australians, it’s meant a return, of sorts, to their youth – living in a share house.

There are a number of reasons an increasing cohort of Australians are going down one of these two paths. Marriage break-up, kids moving out or the loss of a partner, for example.

Increasingly, challenging financial circumstances are the cause.  

Become a lodger

My father, in fact, was a lodger in his mid-20s. A European immigrant, he lodged with a lovely couple named Mr and Mrs Schintz – immigrants themselves – in the Melbourne suburb of Glen Huntly, before he took an Aussie bride, my mum.

For him, it was the prudent thing to do, pay board and save up for a house while working as an industrial chemist for ICI.

Had dad been faced with the prospect of becoming a lodger again later in life, I think he would have accepted it. I don’t think he would have been thrilled about it, but he was a pragmatic man. His experiences in escaping from communist Czechoslovakia helped him build such skills.

With current cost-of-living pressures, renting a room can benefit both the lodger and the room provider. The lodger gets low-cost accommodation and the provider – perhaps a young couple who are first homebuyers – get some mortgage payment assistance.

Share house accommodation

For many Aussies, the term ‘share house’ will evoke memories of university days. A three or four bedroom house shared by students not far either side of 20 years old. Depending on the occupants, the standard of meals and the lifestyles varied greatly!

I lived in a share house at the quieter end of that spectrum, but I’m not sure it’s a lifestyle to which I’d voluntarily return. I’m pretty sure Dad would have chosen lodging over share house accommodation, too.

Are there other alternatives?

I asked myself that very question earlier this year. For the decade prior I had been a divorcee living in a rental house with my adult son. Though he’d had his own life challenges, his mum and I had been encouraging him to become more independent. For several years we suggested he find a place of his own. To our surprise, this year he did.

As good as that was for my son, it left me renting a house that was both too big and too expensive. I also had some personal debts to deal with. Finding an affordable rental apartment – even a one-bedroom one – would be a challenge.

So I looked at alternatives. As sociable as I am, I really appreciate ‘alone’ time. In a share house, or even as a lodger, you can achieve that by staying in your room. But I found that concept too stifling.

An accommodation light bulb moment

Then someone suggested house and pet minding. I had previously thought of this as the domain of teenagers – nieces and nephews or friends. But I discovered that there are people who do this virtually permanently.

And so, in May, I said goodbye to my rental home, and spent three weeks looking after a lovely dog named Dash. I lived at Dash’s place while his owner travelled overseas.

Then came three cats in another Melbourne suburb, followed by a dog named Scout. Next came Boof and Percy, a pair of rescue greyhounds, and my latest puppy pal is Indi.

There are some challenging aspects to a life of minding houses and pets, but I must say I’m enjoying it. The challenges include, ‘living out of a suitcase’ when stays are short, and learning each new neighbourhood of which you become a temporary member.

In my case, I’m extremely lucky to have a storage facility for my furniture provided by a family member. And I have another family member who allows me to lodge in a spare room in between house-minding gigs.

Is house minding a genuine alternative for older Australians?

My original plan was to mind houses and pets for a year and then find a small apartment back in my old suburb. I’m currently halfway through that year and looking forward to having a more permanent home again.

But I’m also not averse to extending beyond a year. I’m in my late 50s and learning new life skills. And I’ve become far more adaptive than I ever thought I could be. All without paying rent or a mortgage.

House minding can be a viable accommodation alternative for those who aren’t particularly enamoured with the idea of lodging or sharing. But you have to like pets!

Have your circumstances changed so that you are now lodging or in a share house? What other accommodation alternatives would you consider? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: Granny flat solution to housing crisis?

Disclaimer: All content on YourLifeChoices website is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care but no guarantees are provided for the ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this information, you should consider its appropriateness in regard to your own circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances.

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigaczhttps://www.patreon.com/AndrewGigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


  1. At 78 being priced out of a retirement village I would like to rent which I do now and as much as I like the cottage the major problem is that it is a rental and at any time the owners may wish to sell or move in themselves, what I need is a permanent rental so that I don’t have to keep moving which has already now become a physical problem with no help.

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