Independent retirement living is wonderful in the early years of retirement, but can become a problem for some. Many seniors refuse to consider giving up their independence even when their health or financial situation worsens. This can create a burden for their loved ones who often have to assist when things become more difficult.
Another possible problem with independent retirement living is isolation.
Without hobbies or other outside interests, social contacts may fade away.
Later, as seniors become less mobile, there are even fewer opportunities to socialize.
One possible answer to these problems is a cohousing community also called Intentional Communities. Elder Cohousing communities are specially designed housing complexes that include independent living in a condo, duplex, or semi-detached house with common areas designed to facilitate and support the social needs of the residents. They decide together how they will use the common areas. For example, some have areas dedicated to hobbies, or they may schedule monthly potluck suppers, or run a community garden. The purpose of these communities is the development of social bonds between the residents. After building long-term relationships, caring for each other to some degree is a natural part of life.
Some communities provide a place for caregivers to stay or live nearby, and when these places are not needed, they can be rented out. The price of a unit in a senior cohousing community can range between $150,000 to more than a million, so this could be an option for almost any retiree.
There are few of these cohousing communities to be found so far, so it is possible to start one that is perfect for you, in the location of your choice. You would find other like-minded people and join together to design your ideal community. Look for the Cohousing Association or The Cohousing Company for more information.
A cohousing arrangement doesn't have to be a retirement community. Many families share housing to reduce expenses and take care of one another. For example, the seniors might provide child care during their early retirement years, and later on the family provides care for the aging elders. This is not a new concept. In the past this was the way of life for most people. But nowadays it is relatively rare since careers so often separate families geographically. Even so, it could fit families who don't have mobile careers, for example, those who run their own businesses. Would extended family shared housing fit your family?
Besides Elder Cohousing, there is a trend towards niche or affinity communities where the residents share common interests. Examples include arts colonies, ethnic oriented communities, university based retirement communities, lesbian, gay, and transgender communities, and so on. Some of these communities typically offer both independent living and assisted living options.
Source: aarp.org, "Elder Cohousing, A new option for retirement - or sooner!" by Sally Abrahms
If you're concerned that isolation might be a problem for you in retirement, take the time to explore these non-traditional living arrangements.
These solutions offer a way to balance independent living with an abundant social life and a supportive environment.
They just might be a perfect fit for you.