What is Cohousing?

Author: Marie Gulen

| Published on: July,22 | Viewed: 3063 times


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, 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 communities typically take residents from age 55 and up.

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. 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. It's also less expensive than paying for senior housing. 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.

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 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.

Imagine building a condo or town-home community where every resident takes part in its design, from the ground up. That's how many of these co-housing communities get started. Among the important details to consider are things such as common space so that the entire group can come together on a regular basis and socialize.

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 it 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 co-housing community, life's rituals such as movie night and luncheons are the norm and they bygone era of helping one's neighbor is an expectation and a team effort.

For more information on cohousing options for seniors, email us at ask@seniorly.com or search for independent living options on Seniorly. 

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