Co-Housing Model Can Give Senior Living Providers Competitive Edge

Take a group of seniors to a desert island, and they’ll do a better job providing for themselves than any senior living institution thus far, says architect and co-housing proponent Charles Durrett.

While senior living providers aren’t abandoning the tried and true models of assisted living, independent living, memory care or other housing models, some are eyeing co-housing as a viable model to incorporate into future senior living community designs.

A proposed continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Nevada County, Calif. plans to implement a co-housing model in one of its seven proposed neighborhoods. The CCRC is slated to offer a total of 345 units, with about 20 of those being set aside for a co-housing community. Rincon Del Rio, with a groundbreaking slated for August, will be sprawled over 225-acres of nature, including miles of walking and equestrian trails.

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Co-housing models can be implemented many ways — some are intergenerational and others rely on partnerships with colleges or universities. What makes a co-housing community unique is that it is for the resident, by the resident, Durrett, principal architect of McCamant & Durrett Architects, says. Residents share common spaces, such as the kitchen and laundry room. And, residents are expected to help each other with day-to-day tasks — so it’s a community built on communication and trust.

There are about 120 co-housing communities in the United States, Durrett says, noting that that number reflects stand-alone models and does not include co-housing models that are a part of other senior living communities. While most are located in California, Durrett says more are popping up nationwide, and the model is also seen in Europe.

The co-housing model at Rincon Del Rio will be offered in addition to group homes, memory care residences, garden apartments and more.

The advantage of offering a co-housing model within a CCRC is that co-housing residents have access to amenities they might not otherwise have, says Rincon Del Rio Co-Founder Carol Young.

“Every neighborhood has a transportation plan,” Young says, adding that an on-site doctor and other medical staff will be available to residents 24/7. “We’ll offer everything they could want in a co-housing model, plus open space [outdoors] and medical appointments.”

Co-housing models are attractive because they appeal to the senior who wishes to age in place, Durrett says.

“Too often small towns lose their seniors because they don’t offer the institutional care they need — co-housing appeals to seniors who have friends, grandkids in town because it allows them to stick around and have a support system,” he says. “[Co-housing] is what senior providers should be doing — it will broaden their product. So many business are missing a pretty good opportunity.”

The proposed CCRC is meant to attract residents because of its amenities and variety of housing units, rather than relying on prospects making an age-driven decision.

The co-housing model will attract those who want a college-like experience, with added resources, Young says.

“Like in college, they eat together, share a dishwasher,” she says. “People want value in their housing, and having a co-housing model on site means [residents] don’t have to worry about future health care needs.”

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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