One of the primary concerns for the elderly is a loss of a sense of community. This can happen when you retire and no longer go to work every day, or in the instance that your adult children move away. Seniors who are unable to drive are often housebound and lose a connection to the community in that way. If you fall into these categories and worry about maintaining the all-important social connection, both for practical and emotional reasons, here is a senior living solution. Senior cohousing communities are designed to facilitate a strong communal bond with other residents. If you are an active senior interested in joining a tight-knit community, learn more about senior cohousing.
What is Senior Cohousing?
Senior cohousing is a type of living community that combines private homes with clustered living spaces. A senior cohousing community includes 20 to 40 single-family or attached homes arranged so that everyone shares the same lawn space and walkways. Forty homes are the intentional maximum to be able to accommodate to the community arrangement. Everyone has their own personal living space, in addition to a shared common house. This house typically includes a large kitchen, dining room, den, and laundry room.
Cohousing is available for communities with individuals of all ages. However, a senior cohousing community only permits residents who are over a certain age, such as 55. This allows seniors to have a more favorable community for their needs. In a senior cohousing community, residents are more likely to share the same common interests, hobbies, and goals. Seniors can spend more time on these activities rather than the typical activities of families or younger adults. For example, seniors in a cohousing community aren't responsible for providing child care or carpooling for other adults, as would be the case in a general cohousing community.
Who Chooses to Live in a Senior Cohousing Community?
Seniors who previously lived in a general cohousing community will often transition to an elderly cohousing group. They are able to maintain the same communal lifestyle while living in a retirement community. However, anyone who is interested in being a part of a close community can benefit from senior cohousing. The ultimate goal with this type of community is to facilitate regular interaction among residents. This provides seniors with practical, social, economic, and environmental benefits since every person is sharing resources.
Where Can I Find Senior Cohousing?
Let's start by looking at how many cohousing communities there are in the US. According to the Cohousing Association of the United States, as of 2018, there are 165 established communities throughout the nation. You can search for communities in your state using this cohousing directory. In addition, 35 groups have purchased land and are in the process of developing a cohousing community. However, among those cohousing communities, only 13 are set aside as specifically senior cohousing communities. States that currently have a senior cohousing community or one under construction include:
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
- Washington State
- New Hampshire
You can choose to live in a general cohousing community or one strictly for seniors, depending on your lifestyle preferences. For instance, some seniors may want to live in a blended community that has more of a family structure with residents of all ages. Other seniors may be ready to transition to a quieter, slower pace of living as with a senior community.
Can I Live in Senior Cohousing if I Have Dementia or a Moderate Level of Care?
A senior cohousing community is primarily focused on active seniors who are able to contribute to the overall needs of the community. While you have your own private home, you are also expected to help out in the functioning of the neighborhood. This might include cooking meals one day a week, providing landscaping for the neighborhood, or organizing group outings once a month.
Seniors who suffer from some form of dementia or lack mobility would not be able to provide this contribution. In addition, these senior cohousing communities are not designed to provide 24/7 monitoring and nursing care. While some senior communities might choose to include memory care or assisted living services for their residents, this would be the exception and not the standard.
Does Senior Cohousing Offer a Community for LGBT Seniors?
Yes, the Village Hearth Cohousing community in Durham, North Carolina provides a welcoming community for LGBT seniors. Anyone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual or is an ally of this community will find a safe haven within this senior cohousing community.
How Does a Senior Cohousing Community Get Started?
The biggest difference between senior cohousing and retirement communities, such as independent living apartments or assisted living, is the way a cohousing neighborhood is organized. To start a community, its founding residents come together to decide how they want to construct the neighborhood. For most cohousing communities, the goal is to minimize the impact on the environment and maximize efficiencies.
For instance, rather than having a large lot size for each homeowner, there is typically no grassy space between homes. Instead, these houses are all connected using walking paths. Parking for cohousing communities is located on the periphery in a lot, which also improves the safety of the community and its residents. As a result, a cohousing community looks much different from a conventional neighborhood.
Once a community decides how they want to develop their senior cohousing community, each resident purchases an individual houses or condo unit. These become part of a homeowner association that is managed by the cohousing community.
Is Senior Cohousing Available to Low-Income Seniors?
In some communities, affordable housing for seniors is available. For example, the first US senior cohousing community Silver Sage Village has units that are permanently managed by the Boulder Housing Authority. These units are rated as affordable housing for seniors and included in the Permanently Affordable Housing Program by the City of Boulder. If you are looking for low-income senior cohousing in your state, contact individual communities to see if they have affordable housing available.