Senior Cohousing: A New Trend in Senior Living
Last Updated: May 13, 2019
One of the biggest benefits of the growth in the senior population in the last decade is that when you have more people facing the same set of challenges, you have more minds actively searching for solutions.
Seniors today have an array of senior living options available to them and one option that’s growing in availability is senior cohousing.
Cohousing is a concept that has been around 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, while also being able to take advantage of shared spaces.
In senior cohousing, people are able to live in their own home independently, while regularly seeing their neighbors in a shared dining area, garden 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 seniors.
For many, the idea of being surrounded 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:
- Community members can help with different responsibilities based on their unique skills. The more people you have in a 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.
- It offers more privacy than senior living. Senior living puts you in close quarters with the other residents. Senior cohousing provides residents with their own house or apartment.
- It’s more affordable than other options. It typically costs much less than 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.
- It’s safer than living alone. The fear of falling down in your home and being stuck there for hours is another concern that seniors never need to 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.
- 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 activities and time with. Seniors that live alone face a real risk of loneliness. Senior cohousing virtually eliminates that concern.
- Sharing resources can save money. Banding together for community meals will cost less than each person paying for groceries for one. Sharing a community is also more cost-effective and easier to maintain than each person having their own.
- You have control over the community’s activities and design. 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 senior 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
- Your options for senior cohousing are limited
Ways 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.