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Helping senior citizens find roommates

December 21, 2007 12:00:00 AM PST
Finding a compatible roommate can be tough sometimes, and it's made even tougher as we age. But a non-profit group is helping seniors find suitable roommates.Muriel Deloumeaus is a French masseuse in her 50s. Jean Mathison is a celebrated interior designer in her 80s. They are two women from such different worlds and yet their lives have intertwined inside a spacious Hollywood home.

Jean and Muriel found each other thanks to a non-profit group called Alternative Living for the Aging. It helps senior citizens find roommates.

"I'm 83-years-old now and I have had some falls around here," said Jean. "Wound up with a broken heel, fractured ribs, that sort of thing. And it would be nice to know that there's somebody here to call on if something should happen."

For the past 30 years, the non-profit group has tried to people together who can live compatibly, and maybe even form a lasting bond.

"I'm living in a wonderful environment with a wonderful lady," said Muriel.

Muriel came to Los Angeles to work at a health spa. She needed an affordable place to live. Since April, she's been staying with Jean in exchange for minor housework and the occasional errand.

"I think it's a very good service, because you know, the old people, they have nobody to take care of them," said Muriel. "You have to put them in assisted living, or retirement home, and they lose their environment."

"Muriel has been a very important friend for me, believe me. And I know that she's here, and anytime I need anything, she's more than willing and able," said Jean. "And she takes care of this apartment, and keeps things in order, and I don't have to worry about it all. And it's been quite wonderful."

Witkin founded Alternative Living for the Aging in 1977. The non-profit has counseled 25,000 people over the years, and brought together 8,000 roommates.

"We interview each person carefully, we're not all things to all people, and we look for people we think would be good to live with another older person," said Witkin.

Even with extensive screenings, the matches don't always work out. But for Muriel and Jean, the two women couldn't be happier. They each have a roommate and a friend.

"We have a lot of care and respect, regard for one another," said Muriel.

"It's a wonderful thing. If you can bring two people together to share, help one another, have companionship and save money," said Witkin.

Alternative Living for the Aging does not charge clients for its services. Their phone number is (323) 650-7988, or visit their Web site at www.alternativeliving.org.

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