About a year and a half ago, Brenda Atchison, a lifelong Bostonian, created an online profile. Atchison was retired from a job in the education sector and looking for someone to share her home and life—but she wasn’t looking for a date. She liked the idea of companionship and of generating a little extra income from renting out part of her big old house. “As you grow older, your core of people narrows down a little bit,” she says. So she used an app called Nesterly, a platform that pairs older people who have empty rooms with students looking for affordable places to stay.
Atchison, 67, outlined the space she had available—a private room with a shared bathroom, along with access to a shared kitchen and den with a TV—and then explained a little about herself and her expectations. “I wanted to communicate that my house is quiet, that I enjoy cooking, that I like learning new things, that I’m respectful and expect the same thing,” says Atchison. “I wanted both of us to be comfortable.”
Pheobus, an international student from Greece in his late 20s who was looking for a room where he could live while continuing his studies at MIT, contacted her. They chatted over Skype a few times and he seemed like a “nice person,” so Atchison drew up a contract and he moved in just before the school year started. The duo soon found that they had a lot in common. “From day one, he just became part of the house,” says Atchison. He was studying architecture and she lived in a historic part of Boston, so she took him on a tour of the neighborhood. They both cooked, and would offer each other food, but mostly kept to their own independent but companionable routines.