senior cohousing

"Cohousing" refers to a type of collaborative housing that attempts to overcome the alienation of modern subdivisions in which no one knows his or her neighbor, and where there is no sense of community. The typical cohousing community has 20 to 30 units, privately owned single-family homes or apartments, arranged in such a way as to encourage interaction with neighbors. It often has a common house, workshops, shared gardens and a greenhouse, meeting and exercise rooms, and often a shared kitchen and dining room where residents may choose to prepare and share meals. In many cases, more than one generation of a family will live in cohousing.

Nyland Cohousing, outside Boulder, Colorado, is a good example of "cohousing." Begun in 1992, Nyland is composed of 42 units on 42 acres, so each residence has 1/42 of the say in determining issues that affect all the residents. This is a multi-generational community, and there are some small-to-almost-grown kids on the property. This particular community is a bit more committed to "living gently on the land" than some others, so don't expect silk curtains and a golf course here. Nyland also has common rooms and a kitchen where residents take about three meals a week. It also boasts adult-only evenings where alcohol is served and kids are specifically not invited. Check out Nyland's website at www.nylandcohousing.org

Sometimes, Cohousing communities are built new, and sometimes they are seen in older neighborhoods and have evolved either naturally or deliberately. The deliberate version is called an "intentional community," and is one in which people with a common purpose consciously commit to living as a community and aging in place. Similar to Cohousing, the main ingredient in all intentional communities is the strategy of bringing services to people rather than moving people to services in order to avoid the premature loss of independence, social isolation, and lack of needed services.

These two types of senior housing, though usually less expensive than "formal" senior housing, are generally for those of us who like to live with friends or family, or who want to make new friends and desire to be with them throughout our elder years. They are more "cuddly," and may afford a little less privacy than one may be accustomed to. It's a trade-off: community or cohousing = more independence and the possibility of new friendships, versus traditional senior living = more privacy and formal living arrangements.

It's another choice, folks.