Senior Cohousing: A New Trend in Senior Living
One of the biggest benefits that comes from the growth in the senior population is that when you have more people facing the same set of challenges, you have more minds actively searching for solutions and putting in the work to make them happen.
Seniors today are therefore some of the luckiest that have ever existed, with an ever wider array of senior living options available to them. One option that’s growing in availability as it picks up proponents is senior cohousing.
What is Senior Cohousing?
Cohousing is a concept that’s been around for a while, but has picked up steam in recent years as a great solution for many seniors. A cohousing community is designed to ensure that each family unit that lives there can enjoy privacy and have a space of their own – their own house or apartment – while also being able to take advantage of shared spaces.
In senior cohousing, people are able to live in their own home and keep their independence, while regularly seeing their neighbors in the shared garden, dining area, or library.
Senior cohousing communities have been described as “intentional neighborhoods.” They’re designed both with the potential accessibility needs of seniors in mind, and with the goal of ensuring that the people living there have lots of opportunities to interact and become a close-knit community.
The Benefits of Senior Cohousing
Cohousing has a lot of appeal to a lot of seniors. When people dream about their retirement years, they don’t picture nursing homes or living alone with a home health care aid as their only company. For many, the idea of being surrounding by friends who you only have to take a few steps to meet up with for dinner or who keep you company while you garden sounds much better.
Senior cohousing has some distinct benefits in comparison to other senior living options:
- It offers more privacy than assisted living. Assisted living puts you in closer quarters with the other residents. Senior cohousing provides residents with their own house or apartment.
- It’s more affordable than many other options. It typically costs much less than nursing homes or assisted living, and for many seniors will cost less than keeping your current home or apartment since it means cutting down on the space you have (and have to maintain) and makes common spaces shared.
- Provides seniors with a community. This is the biggest benefit for many people that are drawn to senior cohousing. You have friends nearby who it’s easy to share time and activities with. Seniors that live alone face a real risk of loneliness. Senior cohousing virtually eliminates that concern.
- It’s safer than living alone. The fear of falling down in your home, breaking a bone, and being stuck there for hours is another concern that seniors never need think of again in senior cohousing. When you have neighbors who expect to see you every day, they’ll notice right away if there’s a problem you need help with.
- Sharing resources can save money. Banding together for community meals will cost less than each person paying for groceries for one. Sharing a yard, a garden, or a library is more cost effective and easier to maintain than each person having their own. And a shared fitness facility costs less than everyone buying their own exercise equipment or a gym membership. The sharing nature of senior cohousing can help ease the financial burden many seniors face.
- Different community members can help with different responsibilities based on their unique skills. The more people you have in the cohousing community, the more skills they bring with them. A member who’s a great chef will be a hit at the potlucks and could even give lessons to other residents wanting to learn how to cook. One that’s good at fixing plumbing problems can pitch in whenever someone else’s faucet springs a leak. Everyone can contribute in their own way and ease some of the burdens on their neighbors.
- You have control over the community’s design and activities. A key component of senior cohousing is that every resident has a say. The founding members of a cohousing community are directly involved in the design and in deciding what’s included. For people that move into established cohousing communities, they’re able to chime in on the details of how it’s run and any changes that get made. Every resident has a voice.
The Downsides of Senior Cohousing
If that all sound pretty idyllic to you, there are a few factors you should keep in mind before deciding cohousing is the life for you.
First off, it doesn’t offer the same level of care as assisted living. While the community-focused aspect of senior cohousing means that residents can often get help from their neighbors for smaller needs, your fellow residents can’t be expected to offer the level of care that assisted living staff and in-home care aids offer. If you reach a point where you need that higher level of care, you’ll either need to hire someone to come each day and help you, or move into an assisted living facility.
Also, at this time, your options for senior cohousing are limited. Senior cohousing communities are out there, but there are still only so many and a lot of those that exist now are full. This is a problem that seems on the cusp of changing as more seniors work to get new senior cohousing communities started, but it does take some real time, effort and funding to get a new one going.
How to Find a Senior Cohousing Community
If you think senior cohousing may be the right move for you or a loved one, you can check the senior cohousing directory to find the list of senior cohousing communities in the United States. Some of the communities may well already be booked up, but you can still check them out and inquire about a waiting list or the possibility of expansion. Other communities on the list are in the process of forming, so you may be able to get in on the ground floor and be actively involved in how they turn out.
If there aren’t any communities available yet in your area and you think there may be enough interest to start one, you can find resources on creating a cohousing community here. It’s a big undertaking, but every cohousing community that exists now does so because someone decided to get the ball rolling. If senior cohousing sounds like the best possible future for you, then the ball’s in your court.