Why Cohousing is Beneficial for Older Adults

Guest blogger Elise Morgan offers her thoughts on the value of cohousing, with a special focus on senior cohousing benefits.

Sharing the rent when in college or just starting out in your career is not uncommon. The lure of better accommodation and a shared responsibility for expenses is often the main driver for students to enter this kind of living arrangement. But what about the older generation? Many retirees are now considering cohousing for a wide range of reasons, not least of all the health benefits it can deliver. Below we take a look at why cohousing is beneficial for older adults.

Village Hearth Senior Cohousing residents in Durham, North Carolina enjoy a community dinner together.

Village Hearth Senior Cohousing residents in Durham, North Carolina enjoy a community dinner together.

The benefits of cohousing for seniors

Cohousing isn’t just about cutting down on expenses, although that can certainly help when we retire and are learning to live off our investments or a lower pension income. The myriad benefits of this arrangement are becoming more widely recognized in America and not before time either.

In many other cultures, the older generation is cared for by the younger; making multigenerational homes more common. This works to support the health and wellbeing of seniors. In our western culture, this is less common and could be a contributing factor to the growing health concern for America – loneliness. 

Loneliness has been shown to contribute to poor health, increasing the risk of heart attacks, strokes, depression, anxiety and a host of other physical and mental illnesses. Cohousing provides the perfect antidote to loneliness – giving seniors a community of people who share spaces, look after one another and genuinely care about their neighbors..

Many senior cohousing communities provide for the activities residents design into the community. Shown here, active gardeners in Mountian View Senior Cohousing, California.

Many senior cohousing communities provide for the activities residents design into the community. Shown here, active gardeners in Mountian View Senior Cohousing, California.

Freedom, independence and support

In senior cohousing communities, everyone becomes a caregiver, and receiver. Unlike an assisted living care home, there is no round the clock care. Instead, cohousing communities rely on a system of codependency. If someone can’t make it to the shop for groceries, another can take care of this. Similarly, if someone is heading away on holiday and needs a neighbor to watch their place another member of the community can do this and even ensure pets and gardens are looked after. These caring communities provide both support and freedom to the individuals within them.

 The peace of mind and companionship provided to each member of the community is both an emotional benefit and one that aids physical health too. The meaningful relationships that are a necessity for cohousing communities to work provide the best solution to the health problems associated with loneliness. Community members still have the freedom they imagined for their retirement years without the isolation and higher risk of health issues that were unlikely to be part of their plans.

Cohousing arrangements have democratic decision making processes in place of hierarchical ones, meaning that each member of the community is encouraged to vote on how the spaces are managed. Community activities, additions to amenities, and care-taking duties are just a few of the areas where voting may be required. Activities that help build social capital are also common - pot luck dinners, movie nights and parties all provide opportunities for residents to get together socially and build friendships.

 

Cohousing offers as much privacy as you want, with as much interaction as you want.

Cohousing offers as much privacy as you want, with as much interaction as you want.

Each individual within a cohousing situation still has their own personal space. These spaces can be decorated to an individual’s tastes and provide the necessary space for quiet activities or time alone. Home decor decisions, choices of furniture such as seating, bedroom furniture and mattresses that match their comfort needs are theirs alone. However, good cohousing communities ensure both personal and communal areas incorporate universal design concepts throughout all areas of a cohousing complex to support their aging habitants and some level of co-care for residents.

Although cohousing is still a relatively new trend in America, over 160 cohousing communities exist and a further 130 are being developed. For seniors looking to downsize and improve their health in their later years, cohousing is a lifestyle choice worth considering.

About the Contributor

Elise Morgan is a freelance writer from North Carolina who loves writing about realty, home design, and contemporary new ways to incorporate sustainability in our everyday lives. In her free time, she enjoys practicing yoga, and trying out new hole-in-the-wall restaurants around town.