Caring Currents

Elder Co-Housing Offers the Best of Both Worlds

Last updated: May 27, 2008

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Researchers -- and the rest of us -- know a couple of things about older folks: They need community, and they fiercely want to hold on to a sense of control.

The problem is, many seniors see these two values as on a collision course. By moving to a retirement community, they fear they'll give up control over basic decisions about where and how they live.

One innovative solution is elder co-housing. Communities such Boulder's Silver Sage Village or Virginia's ElderSpirit are conceived, planned, and run by the seniors who live in them, offering all the community -- and many of the amenities -- of traditional retirement communities but with a greater sense of dignity and control.

These communities are one part '60s commune flashback (Silver Sage has a meditation room) and two parts future-forward. Wildflower Village, still on the drawing board in Texas, is being designed 100 percent eco-friendly, because the group of retirees planning the community value growing old with a light carbon footprint.

That's what makes the elder cohousing concept so intriguing -- the residents themselves design the communities around their own needs and values.

If you're one of the many caregivers who've hit a wall when talking to your parents about moving, try running this hypothetical by them: What would your dream community look like, and how can we help you build it?

And if you get a minute, let us know what their dream village looks like.

Image by Flickr user joguldi used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.