Radical Retirement Communities Rising

Growing old, moving on up

| November-December 2009

  • Radical Retirement

    image by Leah Lin / www.leahlin.com

  • Radical Retirement

A few years ago, I didn’t give it a thought. Becoming a senior seemed very far away. And if it ever did happen, I always joked, I had every intention of making my seven children take care of me in my advanced years.

But I realize, more strongly the older I become, that I don’t want to be under the care and control of my children and their partners. I want to be with friends my own age, people who actually remember Doris Day and Rock Hudson.

Another realization hit when my mother went into long-term care. She remarried at 80 and had six glorious years with her new partner—then she had a stroke. She needed physical care. The choice was between a private facility where both could live, for $6,000 a month, and subsidized care, where she would be separated from the love of her life. They didn’t have $6,000 a month, so he lived in one place and she lived in another. While we’re told that we live in a society that supports families, we divide them in the way we set up long-term care.

Not only were they separated, but my mother was locked in the building. Many of the home’s residents were living with dementia, so none were permitted to leave unless they were accompanied by an adult—which, it was assumed, they weren’t. This is what is available in the real world, I realized. And if heterosexual couples are having trouble staying together, I wondered what it would be like for women in lesbian relationships. So, about three years ago, a group of us got together to discuss making things different. Our group is diverse: Native women, immigrant women, women with family members with disabilities, lesbians, and heterosexual women. We call ourselves the Committee for Retirement Alternatives for Women.

Let’s face it: Women over 60 are predominantly low-income. Most cannot afford private options. Our committee set out to define new values congruent with women’s lives and to redesign how we view retirement homes and long-term care facilities. Our goal is to build a retirement village for women—a prototype that could be used elsewhere.

As senior housing currently exists, many retirement complexes and long-term care facilities are in isolated locations, far from the communities where people have connections. In the last years of life, you get moved as soon as you lose bladder control or can’t feed yourself. Additionally, particularly in long-term care, residents have little control over their environment. Imagine: You’re 86 and have been independent all your life, but you can’t sleep in till noon and stay up till midnight playing cards with friends. You might even have to sneak that glass of wine into your room.

peta gibson
6/14/2013 11:04:59 AM


Mary Jordan
3/17/2013 7:11:45 PM

Why wait until the senior years? Many empty nesters, typically age 50 and up are having these kinds of conversations. I belong to a small group of people in Kamloops, BC who are in the process of building a shared home together. While 'aging in place' is part of our vision it is much bigger than that. We were driven initially by the idea of building sustainability communities, intentional families, reducing our environmental impact and developing a more interdependent way of living rather than the fierce independence that for many is an increasingly difficult, expensive and lonely way to live. We are a registered equity co-op, with 6 member shares. We are singles and couple and range in age from 47 to 70. Our home design is a large single family dwelling with 6 private bed/sitting rooms. Please check our website www.rarebirdshousing.ca

Carolyn Leigh
3/17/2013 5:07:37 PM

hi there i heard a radio show and followed up the direction for radical retirment and found this article online. I heard about Paris's Babayagas complex development and certainly impressed by their tenacity! I thought about how changes need to reflect the needs of our growing retired people's population and totally agree the present instutionalization requires overhaul. I wondered if you may be aware of plans for an innovative living retirement community within a university setting? Perhaps this may lend some more ideas for women hoping to continue learning and growing as they age and live out their years..check out this article..http://www.therecord.com/news/local/article/586420--seniors-facility-will-be-a-living-classroom

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