Co-housing May be the Solution for Community-Minded Seniors

Many seniors have expressed their desire to age in place and remain in a familiar environment and friendly community, AARP studies show, and now a fairly recent phenomenon that seeks to promote just this is emerging in the shape of senior co-housing communities. The philosophy of co-housing is simple, says a recent Sacramento Bee article: Share and share alike.

For proponents of this concept, says the Sacramento Bee, co-housing offers not only the connection of small communities where everybody knows the neighbors, but also the ability to share responsibilities equally, rather than be controlled by an administration. According to the Cohousing website, the concept came from Denmark in the early 1980s; communities can range in size from 7 to 67 residences, with the majority of them housing 20 to 40 households.

These communities, whose demographics can be intergenerational in addition to seniors-only, consist of individually-owned residences centered around a common house or community space. Residents work together to care for common areas and gather at least a few times per week for optional community meals. The increasing emergence of co-housing communities as an alternative approach to aging in place may be appealing to the baby boomer generation as they reach retirement age, says the Sacramento Bee.

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Residents of a senior co-housing community that opened in 2005, Glacier Circle Community, pioneered the way for seniors-only co-housing in the United States, says the Sacramento Bee, and according to the Co-housing Association of the United States, at least a dozen similar communities are underway throughout the nation.

Take, for example, Sacramento, Ca.-located Wolf Creek Lodge, a senior co-housing community that’s currently in development stages. Upon its expected completion and opening next summer, the 30-residence construction will be the fourth senior co-housing community in the United States.

“This is a bunch of people who want to stay in charge,” says Katie McCamant, an architect with Nevada City’s Co-housing Partners, the company that’s building Wolf Creek Lodge and, reports the Sacramento Bee, the company that brought the concept of co-housing to America from Denmark, where it originated. “They’re not looking for other people to manage things. They want to determine what they need, and they don’t want to live somewhere that someone sets up craft time at 2.”

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However, the article continues, not everyone thinks senior co-housing is the best thing since sliced bread. Andrew Carle, the director of George Mason University’s senior housing administration program, likens senior co-housing to communes and doubts it will garner widespread participation.

“The first-generation communes disappeared because of the fanciful idea that we’ll all live together in peace and happiness and help each other. We tried this. It’s easier said than done,” says Carle in the Sacramento Bee article. “I’m in favor of any type of new housing for seniors. Co-housing gets press as the next big thing, but I don’t think it is. It’ll be a small niche for some people, for whom it will work really well.”

With elder caregiving placing a $3 trillion drain on adult children’s wallets, and AARP reporting that 89% of Americans wanting to stay in their homes as long as possible, the idea of co-housing for seniors might hold significant appeal for some. Whether or not this trend catches on, however, remains to be seen.

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Read the Sacramento Bee article here.

Written by Alyssa Gerace