Lonesome? Well, join the club. More than one in three adults over 45 is lonely, according to a survey by AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons. Are you one of them? As people retire and spouses, significant others, and friends pass on or move away, it’s normal to feel isolated.
I’m over 70 now, and I’ve had three friends move away to be closer to their grandchildren. I have yet to be bored or lonely, but I’m fortunate to live in a small community with close friends and community involvements. Many aren’t so lucky.
Over the years, my friends and I have brainstormed about building a cluster home for four or five couples (or singles). Our dream home would have a central common area including a living room, kitchen, dining room, workout room, and reading/studio space.
Radiating around the common area would be individual private suites, each with at least a bedroom, bath, sitting area and kitchenette. We’ve fantasized about hiring a driver, a trainer, a cleaner, and perhaps a chef.
This may be pie-in-the-sky, but it makes sense. It would lighten our financial responsibilities, create options for regular socializing, and meet our daily needs for meals and physical activity. It might mean we could live independently for many more years than we might have managed on our own.
Cohousing is defined by Marriam-Webster as “semi-communal housing consisting of a cluster of private homes and a shared community space.” It’s not a new concept.
In fact, the first modern cohousing community was established in Denmark over 50 years ago. The early experiments were successful, and the trend has expanded worldwide.
Cohousing communities range from free-standing private homes with a shared community building to condos with shared spaces and other resources.
What makes it different from standard senior housing is that the residents share the duties of administration and organization as well as maintenance and activity planning.
The idea is to create a small, connected community that encourages involvement and interaction on a regular basis, yet allowing residents to enjoy their privacy comfortably.
According to data on cohousing.org, it’s both ecologically and economically prudent to house more people in a small area, share services, and share expenses. Many cohousing communities include units that cost under $100,000, while others can range up to five times that amount.
If you compare the cost of assisted living to purchasing a senior cohousing unit, it’s a no-brainer. Assisted living apartments in America average $4000 per month, or $48,000 per year. It’s a quick way to gobble up a life’s savings in a few years.
And then there’s the workload. As they say, many hands make fast work (as well as making it more enjoyable). Instead of having to manage a lawn, gardening, and maintenance on your own, these responsibilities are shared by the group, though of course there’s the option of hiring outsiders to do those tasks.
The most important advantage is that people with social connections live longer, healthier lives, which might lighten otherwise necessary expenses for assisted living or nursing home care.
Senior cohousing is all about helping people live independently longer in a community that helps them to stay both active and connected.
Chuck Durrett is an American architect dedicated to the promotion and design of senior cohousing communities.
He’s published a book, The Senior Cohousing Handbook: A Community Approach to Independent Living, and his website, senior cohousing is highly informative. He is happy to consult with individuals interested in developing such a community.
I’ve discovered a number of websites about cohousing, including Senior Living and Cohousing UK. I know this type of senior living is much more popular in Europe and Scandinavia, and I’m confident that there are many such communities.
Do a web search for “senior cohousing,” and it should bring up opportunities in your area.
What do you think about the idea of cohousing? Would you invest in living in a cohousing community? What sounds tempting? What doesn’t? Please share your thoughts with our community of sisters!
Tags Downsizing Your Life