Nellie Goodwin hadn’t given much thought to the spare bedroom in her North Cambridge duplex until her therapist suggested she rent it out.

“She knew that I had lost my husband three years ago and that I was very lonely,” said 75-year-old Goodwin. “So I went for it.”

She listed the room on Nesterly, a home-sharing website with a unique goal: connecting older homeowners with room to spare and young people who need affordable rent. Homeowners and renters, or "guests," as Nesterly calls them, both post profiles and arrange to meet on the phone or in person. The company handles rent payments and background checks.

“It’s a really scary thing to do, I think, for both parties,” said 25-year-old Sarah Duggan, who moved in with Goodwin in March. “Let’s say you’ve lived alone for many years or are not used to sharing space in this way, it’s a big change. And for young people, you know, I was used to a college environment.”

But for Duggan and Goodwin, sharing a home has led to friendship. They enjoy one another’s company, like having someone to check in with at the end of the day, and both appreciate the $600 monthly rent. For Goodwin, it’s a new source of income, and for Duggan, it’s a steal. Studios near Boston rent for twice that amount.

“I love this area so much and I feel so lucky, because there’s no way I could live here if it wasn’t for Nellie,” said Dugan.

Nesterly founder Noelle Marcus came up with the idea of creating a tech platform for home-sharing a couple of years ago when she was living in Boston pursuing a master’s degree in urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“It was really, really expensive to find housing,” recalled Marcus.

Nesterly capitalizes on two trends happening in Boston and many other cities facing a housing shortage: a fast-growing population of aging homeowners and a surplus of unused bedrooms. Thewebsite Trulia estimates there are 90,000 spare bedrooms in the Boston area, and millions more in cities across the country. And while renting a room is hardly a new idea, Marcus is betting that, similar to how Uber popularized ride-sharing, Nesterly will transform the concept of home-sharing.

“According to AARP, 40% of over 45-year-olds say they’re interested in renting a room in their home, but today, only 2 percent are doing it,” said Marcus. “And we think that’s because the right product and the right service did not exist.”

And while she hopes to bring together people of different generations, it’s not a requirement. She said people of all ages, sometimes those who are close in age, have used Nesterly to find and offer a place live.

Marcus said Nesterly has garnered interested from 280 cities around the world and she hopes to expand quickly to meet demand. For now, though, Nesterly is available only in the Boston area, where the website went live this year.

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Abby Herbst (l) and Brenda Atchison (r) met via Nesterly, an online platform for intergenerational home-sharing. The two live together in Brenda's home in Roxbury, Mass.
Meredith Nierman WGBH News

Brenda Atchison was among a handful of Boston residents to test the Nesterly concept before it launched. At age 67, she found it increasingly difficult to climb the stairs to a pair of third-floor bedrooms in her Roxbury town house and cover the costs of heating rooms with 12-foot ceilings. House-sharing, she figured, could help her remain at home.

“The house,” she said, “the neighborhood is very much a part of me.”

Over the past couple of years, she has hosted three graduate students through Nesterly. The rent is $800 per month, but her current guest, 23-year-old Abby Herbst, pays only $650 because she helps out around the house with chores like taking out the garbage and shoveling snow.

“I love it,” said Herbst, who is pursuing a graduate degree in public health, “and actually really like the excuse to not do school work.”

Herbst also appreciates something else about living in Atchison’s home: the company. Loneliness, she said, isn’t only a problem for older people.

“People don’t talk about it a lot and I didn’t actually anticipate it before I came to college, but I had never eaten meals alone before,” said Herbst. “If I feel a little bit lonely or I want to talk to somebody, I just come downstairs and sit in the kitchen.”

Both she and Atchison say they find perspective they couldn’t get from a peer in talking with each other.

“We’re living together and we’re sharing a broader perspective on our experiences, and you just never know what you’re going to talk about,” said Atchison.

That older and younger people enrich each other's lives isn’t a surprise to Noelle Marcus. Although she launched her company in Boston, she runs it from a shared office space in Manhattan, where she now lives. She made the move primarily, she said, to be close her grandmother, whom she considers one of her best friends.

“As a society, we’ve really siloed our generations,” said Marcus. “People are hungry for human connection. There’s a way to unlock wealth and interconnectedness in communities through this platform.”