One common concern for seniors living alone is the lack of community and companionship. Not only can it be dangerous for an elderly person to live alone, but loneliness can have a physical, emotional, and mental toll on someone of advanced age. However, in order to combat the issues associated with living alone, a growing trend amongst the elderly is the concept of cohousing.
Cohousing is different than a retirement home or assisted living facility. A cohousing, or “coho” community, combines private apartments or homes designed around a communal space. The common area typically includes the kitchen, large dining room, laundry facilities, and recreational areas.
Hundreds of coho communities have sprung up all across the country, and most have added benefits for their residents close by. This can include libraries, farmers markets, YMCA or other fitness clubs, parks, shops, restaurants, hospitals, and senior care centers within walking distance.
Cohousing is a grassroots movement happening in the elder community. The residents typically take part in the design of their community and tailor them to the particular needs, interests, and values of each group. For example, one community in North Carolina developed a coho community because the residents were tired of suburban anonymity, wanted to reduce their carbon footprint, and all had a common interest in participating in civic engagement.
Benefits of Cohousing
There are many benefits to cohousing over the typical options for seniors to live alone or in a nursing home facility. Cohousing offers a more autonomous alternative to traditional retirement communities, which often impose strict rules on residents, and instead of having a board set decisions from the top down, cohousing community members typically decide issues by consensus.
In addition, there can be cost-savings benefits to coho communities. The typically smaller, more energy-efficient homes, along with shared community resources, can lower the cost of living for each resident. Seniors who need caregiving can even save money by going in together to hire those services such as nurses or equipment.
One of the most important benefits of cohousing is the sense of community and belonging. Each resident in these communities can feel cared about and care for others that they cohouse with.
How to Choose a Cohousing Group
If you are considering a cohousing group, the most important thing is to choose a community that shares your common interests, needs, and values. The website Cohousing.org contains valuable information that can help you make the decision about whether cohousing is the best option for your or your elderly loved one.
For retirees that want to enjoy their twilight years with others while also maintaining a sense of independence, cohousing is an excellent option. When evaluating communities, consider the following:
· Do the goals of the group reflect your values?
· Do the location and the size of the community match your preferences?
· What is the group’s process for making decisions and sharing responsibilities?
· Will the community be intergenerational or for retirees only?