Alternative Senior Cohousing Options

Successful aging requires control of one's life, and this generation of seniors — the baby boomers — will find the Senior Cohousing Handbook holds a compelling vision for their future.


| April 2013


No matter how rich life is in youth and middle age, the elder years can bring on increasing isolation and loneliness as social connections lessen, especially if friends and family members move away. The Senior Cohousing Handbook (New Society Publishers, 2009) is a comprehensive guide to joining or creating a cohousing project, written by the U.S. leader in the field. Author, Charles Durrett, deals with all the psychological and logistical aspects of senior cohousing, and addresses common concerns, fears, and misunderstandings. 

Some years ago I lost my husband and went through a difficult time. But I am glad that I lived here when it happened since it meant that I never felt unsafe. I was not together with other residents all the time, but I knew they were there for me if I needed them. And when I came home at night I could feel the warmth approach me as I drove up our driveway. —Møllebjerg in Korsør, Denmark 

So many American seniors live in places that do not accommodate their most basic needs. In the typical suburb, the automobile is a de facto extension of the single-family house. Driving is an absolute requirement for a person wanting to conduct business, shop, or participate in social activities. As we get older, as our bodies and minds age, the activities we once took for granted aren’t so easy anymore: the house becomes too big to maintain; a visit to the grocery store or doctor’s office becomes a major expedition; and the list goes on. Of course many, if not most, seniors recognize the need to take control of their own housing situation as they age. They dream of living in an affordable, safe, readily accessible neighborhood where people of all ages know and help each other. But then what? What safe, affordable, neighborhood-oriented, readily accessible housing choices actually exist?

The modern single-family detached home, which constitutes about 67 percent of the American housing stock, is designed for the mythical nuclear family consisting of a working father, a stay-at-home mother, and two point four children. Today, less than 25 percent of the American population lives in such households. Almost 25 percent of the population lives alone, and this percentage is increasing as the number of Americans over the age of 60 increases. At the same time, the surge in housing costs and the increasing mobility of the population combine to break down traditional community ties. And, for the first time in the history of the US more women live without husbands than with.

Currently, seniors represent a record 12.4 percent of the American population, which, with the swell of post-WWII baby boomers entering seniorhood, will increase to 20 percent by the year 2030. Clearly, action must be taken, and quickly, to correct these household and community shortcomings. But what can be done, and by whom? How can we better house ourselves as we age?

I believe that the answer lies in senior cohousing communities. Having visited many of these communities, I’m now a firm believer that 20 seniors stranded on a desert island would do better at taking care of most of their basic needs than the same 20 left isolated or in an institution.

Bernice
9/18/2013 11:03:15 AM

With the ‘boomers’ generation approaching retirement age there is a higher demand for affordable senior housing options that supports a healthy lifestyle in a sustainable way. Successful and dignified aging for most seniors means maintaining control over their own lives. Senior cohousing takes the concepts of cohousing and modifies them according to the specific needs of seniors. “The Senior Cohousing Handbook: A Community Approach To Independent Living” speaks to this demographic -- the healthy, educated and proactive adults who want to live in a social and environmentally vibrant community. Visit www.cohousingco.com to learn more about cohousing and how we can help. Book link http://bit.ly/senior_cohousing_handbook Here's to living in community, Thanks! Bernice


David Stennes
4/19/2013 10:25:46 PM

Senior Cohousing - not just something that sounds curious and interesting elsewhere. The demographic shift you smartly describe not only allows, but forces us to consider the question "what's next?" for housing as baby boomers ourselves. In 1963, when I was born, almost 40% of the population was age 19 or under. This group, now beginning to retire, represents the largest age wave change in history. As we look ahead to next stages of life, some wonderful ideas are coming out. There's a new sense of awareness for all issues relating to living well in aging. You've hit on an raw nerve in this well done article. Thank you. david@harvestmn.org Twitter @harvestinghomes