Co-Housing vs. Senior Co-Housing: I’m Confused, Are You?

I thought that any kind of shared housing was all about sharing costs, but it’s also about finding community. Two SeniorLiving.org writers, Jeff Hoyt and Scott Witt, give us some insights on who should be looking at one particular kind of shared living, called co-housing:

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 co-housing communities are designed to facilitate a strong communal bond with other residents.

So What is Senior Co-Housing?

Co-housing is a particular type of shared living arrangement in which the need for both personal space and community are met. It combines private homes with clustered living spaces. A senior co-housing community usually include 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 the community arrangement. Everyone has their own personal living space, in addition to a shared common house or area (in the case of attached homes). This common house or space typically includes a large kitchen, dining room, den, and laundry room.

Co-housing is available for communities with individuals of all ages. However, a senior co-housing community only permits residents who are over a certain age, such as 55. This allows older adults to have a more favorable community for their needs. In a senior co-housing 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 co-housing community aren’t responsible for providing child care or carpooling for other adults, as would be the case in a general co-housing community. 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.

Comparison with Other Retirement Choices

The biggest difference between senior co-housing and retirement communities, such as independent living apartments or assisted living, is the way a co-housing neighborhood is organized. To start a community, its founding residents come together to decide how they want to construct the neighborhood. For most co-housing communities, the goal is to minimize the impact on the environment and maximize efficiencies. Additionally, there are specific qualities of co-housing communities — such as some common meals and committee meetings, for example — that ensure a well-run community where clear communication is valued and people support each other for the sake of the community

Remember the ‘Communes’ of Our Youth?

We were given warnings by our parents of all that lurked in communes in the ‘60s and ‘70s:  free love, weed, unsafe living in abandoned warehouses, just to name a few. Today the conversations are about caregivers, cannabis dispensaries and open concept loft space living. What’s old is new … kind of like us. Now, Baby Boomers, let’s do this living thing with purpose, energy and style!

As part of an aging-in-place game plan, a senior co-housing arrangement provides the back-up support mechanism that permits its residents to retain independence and privacy. Rather than having to look for help as needs arise like trips to doctors, daily meals or grocery shopping, senior co-housing anticipates these tasks and incorporates their provision in the physical design and management of the community. 

Next time, we’ll look at general co-housing and try it on for a fit. Stay tuned!

Third Chapter Living celebrates, challenges, informs and promotes conversations about housing issues affecting the Baby Boomer Generation. Check out our website to learn more about our work. Our Facebook Group is a resource center with tips and recommendations on navigating those issues. Share experiences with others who are looking for Housing Downsizing Tools that allow them to successfully age in place. Become a part of the group.

2 Comments

  1. Iris Johnson-Quinn on August 11, 2022 at 5:36 pm

    Hello Ms. Fayde,

    Thank you for this email / information.

    Yes, I would like to speak with you about “aging in place”. I downsized in twenty-fourteen and now due to medical concerns, I need to make changes to my home.

    I would also like to speak with you about “service” activities in my community that are both age and medically appropriate for me.

  2. Iris Johnson-Quinn on August 11, 2022 at 5:36 pm

    Hello Ms. Fayde,

    Thank you for this email / information.

    Yes, I would like to speak with you about “aging in place”. I downsized in twenty-fourteen and now due to medical concerns, I need to make changes to my home.

    I would also like to speak with you about “service” activities in my community that are both age and medically appropriate for me.

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