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.

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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.

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“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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