People often say that the baby boomers like to put their generational stamp on things. Well, it appears that now they’re doing to the field of senior housing. The “advance wave” of this huge group of men and women is now a few years into their 70’s, and while a majority still prefers to age in place in their own home, a growing number seem to be rejecting conventional housing choices and seeking out new living alternatives.
Maybe that’s what attracted our attention to this interesting article that we just discovered on the website Kaiser Health News. This article talks about the growing trend toward co-housing – still a tiny segment of the senior housing market, but clearly an expanding one. “In 2010,” writes the author Sharon Jayson, “no U.S. cohousing communities were geared toward seniors.” There are now 13 co-housing communities targeting the 55-and-older demographic, with another 15 either under construction or in the early planning stages. The title of the Kaiser article says it all: “For Active Seniors, Cohousing Offers A Cozier Alternative To Downsizing.”
C0-housing, as the name implies, is a newer form of living where some spaces are private and others are shared. It is definitely not a throwback to the 1960’s. “It’s not a commune,” writes Jayson, “and there’s no sharing of income, though decision-making is by consensus.” The whole concept is built around shared resources, from simple things like lawnmowers and tools to shared living spaces including a communal kitchen “clustered near a common space where homeowners meet regularly to share meals and build community.” There’s often an apartment or other guest quarters for out-of-town visitors, shared by the residents. Homes are private, but smaller. Typically the community is organized like a condominium or homeowners association, with a board and regular monthly dues to maintain common facilities.
This kind of housing development is not necessarily new: there are nearly 170 co-housing communities nationwide. However, almost all are intergenerational, writes Kaiser Health News. What appears to be new and different is the trend toward co-housing that is strictly for seniors, many of whom desire to downsize into a space that’s easier to manage while still maintaining a strong sense of community and closeness with like-minded neighbors. These boomers are often not interested in what they perceive as stodgy living in a traditional retirement residence. “As increasing numbers of aging adults eschew the idea of institutional living, cohousing has become an attractive option,” says Sharon Jayson.
There’s even a group called the Cohousing Association of the United States, or Coho/US for short. Recognizing the growing interest of seniors in co-housing, the association this year launched an initiative called Aging in Cohousing in order to help communities launch new projects – or as they put it, “to empower cohousing communities to create physical and social environments that allow people to flourish as they get older.” The concept revolves around age-friendly communities that have been designed to allow seniors to age in place, with residents providing what the association calls “some level of co-care for aging members.” It’s an ambitious initiative, and if you want to learn more, here’s a link to their website.
It may be common for friends who have known each other for a long time to talk about living in proximity to one another as they age, but that’s not the case with the communities profiled in the Kaiser article. “In most cohousing communities, the residents start as strangers who plan to help each other for the rest of their lives,” writes Jayson. Part of the home-buying process “includes months of getting-to-know-you activities that precede the purchase.” It’s also important to recognize that, while residents care for one another in a neighborly way, the expectation is that people are healthy enough to live on their own. “We are people who have the ability to live independently who intended to come together to form a community,” one resident from Portland, Oregon, said. “We made it really clear: We’re not a care facility.” Even as residents age, the article emphasized, “cohousing communities don’t aim to be continuing-care or nursing facilities, homeowners say.” Or in the words of another resident, “None of us moved in here with the idea of bathing or dressing our neighbors. There are certain things we’re committed to doing and certain things we’re not.”
Is co-housing right for you? At AgingOptions we’re encouraged to see the rise of new and different housing options to match the needs and preferences of present and future retirees, but choosing the type of housing choice that’s best for you is a critical decision, one that needs to be made with other aspects of retirement in mind. Will you have access to the medical care you need? Will your family be able to be engaged with you as you age? Are you fully protected legally? Will you be able to afford the retirement you hope for or are you in danger of outliving your assets? If your assets should prove inadequate for the long haul, the odds that you will become a burden to those you love are significantly increased. What’s the solution?
Fortunately we have the answer: you need an AgingOptions LifePlan. Only this revolutionary type of retirement plan combines all the essential elements – finances, medical, housing, legal and family – and ensures that all these puzzle pieces fit together. Your LifePlan gives you the tools to build the retirement you’ve dreamed of! Why not invest just a few hours to learn more about this exciting retirement planning breakthrough? Join Rajiv Nagaich at a LifePlanning Seminar near you. These popular, information-packed sessions are absolutely free and are offered at locations throughout the region. For dates, times and details, and simple online registration, click here for our Upcoming Events page. We’ll look forward to seeing you soon at an AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar.
(originally reported at www.khn.org)