What is Senior Cohousing?

Author: Seniorly Editor

| Published on: July,22 | Viewed: 3509 times


Find out what is senior cohousing, why it’s become so popular and learn about its benefits. Cohousing can provide a sense of community, support and socialization while allowing seniors to maintain independent homes and living.

What is Senior Cohousing?

What is senior cohousing?

Senior cohousing is an excellent independent living alternative for the elderly who want to live in a supportive community environment. Cohousing communities are designed to have a shared common space while still maintaining independent homes for individuals.

More and more, the aging population, particularly baby boomers, are concerned with how and where they are going to live out the rest of their years. Many of them don't have children, and could potentially be left without anyone to take care of them. However, assisted living in a nursing home is not an option.

There is a slew of choices to consider ranging from staying in their own homes with the help of a hired nurse to elder care facilities. But, rather than live alone, older adults are choosing a relatively brave new world. It's an idea that was brought from Denmark two decades ago called senior "co-housing," also known as elder self-directed intentional communities, or EIC. These cohousing communities typically take residents from age 55 and up.

Cohousing Benefits

If you've never heard of it, co-housing is a do-it-yourself type of community. Viewed as a radical alternative, EIC's allow senior citizens to be autonomous and interdependent at the same time with private homes. Rather than depending on an administrator, older adults can live and age in a community of friends - a group of individuals with whom they choose.

Sense of Community

One of the major benefits of senior cohousing is the sense of community it provides among seniors. Having socialization and living among others is shown to decrease depression and increase longevity. Cohousing communities allow individuals their independence while encouraging social meals, activities and support. Having a friend or living partner nearby can provide peace of mind during aging.

Cost Savings

Senior cohousing is also less expensive than paying for a nearby assisted living. In fact, some units are state-subsidized and can cost less than $500 per month depending on the community. And, there is a rise in the number of co-housing communities that are out there. There are approximately 250 multi-generational co-housing communities in the United States.

Why cohousing?

A phrase widely used amongst retired people is, "aging in place" - the idea of staying in familiar environs by living in your own home. However, the idea and practice of "aging in community" has had a significant following for it offers a place to live amongst people who are sharing in your aging experience. Some describe it as a housing cooperative and as a mecca for baby boomers not wanting to live the rest of their years in an institutional setting. Rather, co-housing offers a community setting that is neighborly, close-knit, safe and nurturing.

Cohousing communities typically share resources such as common areas, groceries, transportation and other daily living benefits. There are also social and community activities for everyone who wants to participate.

Imagine building a condo or townhome community where every resident takes part in its design, from the ground up. That's how many of these co-housing communities get started. Sometimes they have a cohousing association to manage the facility and shared group experiences.

Among the important details to consider are things such as common or open space so that the entire group can come together on a regular basis, socialize and have shared meals. Typically, there will be a common house and then private homes clustered around, making the livable space easy to access and convenient.

Cohousing Versus Other Types of Senior Living

Senior cohousing represents an alternative to other independent and assisted living options for elderly. While there are many different types of assisted living options, cohousing or roommates provides seniors a great independent living alternative.

Here’s a table that outlines some of the major differences in assisted versus independent living options.

  Senior Cohousing Senior Roommate Senior Living
24-hour Medical Attention     X
Shared Expenses X X  
Common Areas X X X
Independent Homes X    

Cohousing Versus Senior Roommates

The primary difference between a senior cohousing community versus having a senior roommate is the independent living space. Typically, with a roommate, the entire house is shared with individual rooms as the independent living space.

In a senior cohousing community, homes are typically clustered around a central living area or commonhouse. Every member of the community has their own home and independent living, if desired.

There are some similarities in terms of shared expenses, common area and social activities. One of the main benefits of both living situations is the sense of community and safety by having others around for older adults who wish to still live independently.

Cohousing Versus Assisted Living

Similarly to assisted living options, cohousing communities can also choose to have regular housekeeping or medical support onsite. These are some of the major benefits of assisted living options that can be included in senior cohousing communities as a shared expense, if the group desires.

Even in other assisted living options, such as board and care or nursing homes, there are common areas and independent quarters for individuals. However, many individuals have roommates in assisted living situations to share on costs. One of the major differences in assisted living is the full-time care and living in the same building (versus independent homes).  

Cohousing Communities

There is a philosophy and a practicality behind co-housing. Experts in geriatrics consider aging as a "team sport" and that life together is better than apart. While cohousing alleviates loneliness for couples who have been widowed, it also encourages people to come together to help each other with the day-to-day in case some members become disabled.

Baby boomers in particular can benefit by a communal lifestyle because many didn't have children and therefore have no family to take care of them should they become sick or disabled.

According to some geriatricians, the United States has experienced a fading away of the traditional understanding of family and care-giving, unlike other countries and cultures who keep multiple generations under one roof. Co-housing brings that sense of family back to folks who would otherwise be alone or haphazardly placed with a group of strangers.

In a senior cohousing community, life's rituals such as movie night and luncheons are the norm and the bygone era of helping one's neighbor is an expectation and a team effort.

For more information on cohousing options for seniors, find your free senior care report by giving us a call at (855)866-4515 or emailing help@seniorly.com.

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