A few years ago, I began thinking about how I would choose to live if I could live any way that I wanted to.
The plan that evolved centered around a small age-restricted “village” of a dozen or so cottages or patio homes arranged in a rambling circle with their backyards facing in around a common area and a community building.
The common area would include a pool, hot tub and gardens, with walkways meandering through the property.
The community building would have a central gathering room and a kitchen. I envisioned shared dinners and happy hours, group workout sessions and opportunities for residents to learn from each other.
I envisioned this idyllic little retirement community – the Entourage concept that I write about in my book Retiring Solo – populated by women living in their own homes, but with the ability to open their back doors and step out into a social and community support system that would wrap itself around them like a warm hug.
They would be women who I would live near, but not with, and with whom I would laugh, cry, learn, work and (hopefully) grow old. They would watch out for me and I would watch out for them.
At the end of the day, or whenever and as often as I chose, I could go into my home, close my door and enjoy my space and privacy. It really would be the best of both worlds: community and castle, social and solo. Nirvana.
Just about every woman with whom I share this idea gets excited by the possibilities. Each is intrigued by the idea of a smaller-scale, community-oriented neighborhood that offers privacy, community spaces and shared amenities.
As solo women, we often prefer to live alone, but we want to do so in an environment that provides social connections, activities and the sense of community we crave. Community – and the support system that it creates – makes it easier to maintain our independence by allowing us to “live alone, together.”
No one wants to age alone or in isolation. Community is the continuity that we all seek in an ever-changing world. We may not want to be involved or participate in our community every minute of every day, but we do like to know that it’s there and available when we need it or want it.
I recently moved into an “active adult resort community” as part of my efforts to build an entourage of neighbors, friends and confidantes. I did a lot of research on the types of people who are expected to live in the community to ensure that I wouldn’t be too young, too active or too solo (adult communities traditionally attract a lot of couples). I hadn’t been searching for a free-standing home, but I do like the idea of having privacy and the benefits of a close-knit community just outside my door.
Six months later, I have made many new friends, added new activities and skills to my repertoire and even traveled with some of my new neighbors. The people who come to live in my community appear to be searching for the same things: close friendships, vibrant social life, and an active, healthy lifestyle.
Living in an active adult community is both an experiment and a learning experience for me. It offers an ideal combination of privacy and social life, recreation and work as I work and write from a home office. Surely my experience will also be useful to refining the entourage concept, which I still hope to see realized one day.
What is your idea of the perfect neighborhood? What does it look like and why is it special? Do you know others who share your vision? How could you add a greater sense of community to where you are living today? Please join the conversation.