What is elder or senior cohousing?

Cohousing came to the U.S. 15 years ago from Denmark, where intergenerational communities gave birth to a successful, age-specific cohousing model for active elders. The first elder-only cohousing neighborhoods for active adults, 55 and above, are just now emerging in the U.S. Design features include easy access for all levels of physical ability and also may include optional studio residences in the common house to provide living quarters for home health aides whose services may be shared by several residents.

You can read more about it here.

Multigenerational Cohousing is also supportive of Elders. Read more about Aging in Community.

Chuck Durrett just posted a great blog post on this topic

His latest musings are on seniors versus elders, looking at distinctions other than age in the process.

Raines Cohen, Cohousing Coach (and aspiring Elder)

The term Seniors is generally

The term Seniors is generally preferred by those who are comfortable with their age. My friend’s parents are an example of this, both WW2 generation. However in some cases you will run into those who feel that Elder is better.
My friend’s mom responds: They’re seniors in denial. She said the term Elder is dated and only serves to emphasize just how old they really are. While not being in my later years myself, I am inclined to agree

Best Regards,

Elder as honorific

At Songaia Cohousing, some of our seniors have become elders... in our local case, we've treated it as a rite of passage - its about honoring the person and celebrating them and their transition. I've helped plan a couple of these.

I sometimes speak of myself as a wanna-be elder - at this point, I am clear that there's a lot of growth ahead of me before I make it.

financial constraints of co-housing

The sine qua non for developing co-housing community are the purchase of land and the construction of residences.

These are extremely costly investments which make co-housing accessible only to those of significant means. While such costs may vary, depending on the location of the planned community, these costs, which include hiring consultants, architects, and paying for materials and construction, makes co-housing unavailable to elders who resonate philosophically with this social model but of limited financial means.

A friend and I, who are interested in creating a senior community in Tucson, AZ, recently realized that an alternative to traditional home construction, is to purchase a modular residence, such as those manufacture by Fleetwood; or the purchase of one of the many double and triple wide so-called 'mobile' homes.

Being new to the co-housing model, I am very concerned about the economic status constraints it contains. I would be appreciative for comments, on this, from those with experience with co-housing and its financial considerations.

With thanks.
Bob Freedman

Go for it...

The costs of developing and owning new real estate in the United States is indeed very high and out of reach to many Americans. Cohousing, as a model, doesn't solve this problem directly.

I disagree with your premise that cohousing is only available to those of "significant means." Making large Investments in the purchase and development of the real estate is capital expensive and it may require more means to get a project successfully started. However, what matters to the ultimate owners is the cost of purchasing and operating your cohousing home. I know from direct experience that many cohousers (both owners and renters) are of very limited means.

Cohousing home prices can be lower than homes in the same area. Why? They are usually smaller, e.g. I live in an 1,100 sq foot cohousing home. This is MUCH smaller and was less expensive to buy and is less expensive to operate than more typical single-family homes. According to this MarketWatch article, average size of homes started in the third quarter of 2008 was 2,438 square feet. None of the homes in my cohousing community are close to that large.

I'm not arguing that new construction is affordable, but if you're willing to live with a smaller footprint, which is more feasible if you share more resources, costs can at least be kept more reasonable.

I'm unaware of any project to date that has used mobile homes to create a less expensive cohousing community. Its an idea/vision that I've seen come up a number of times, especially on the Cohousing ListServ. Unfortunately, it does not seem to have been carried through to reality... yet.

Another less-expensive vision that has been realized is retro-fit cohousing - the conversion of existing dwellings, either single- or multi-family housing into cohousing communities. Of course the costs of this approach depends on the cost of the property that you start with and then, any improvements.

If you have passion around creating a cohousing community of modular homes, I'd urge you to go for it. If you are able to attend the upcoming National Cohousing Conference, you might want to check out the pre-conference workshop, Affordable Cohousing; Making the Numbers Work.

Craig Ragland

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Senior CoHousing

This is the first article I've seen for CoHousing in my area!
I live in Phoenix and am looking around to try to find a smaller community as I get older. I'd be very interested in Senior Co Housing in Tucson. Also I've never seen any news about "renting" in such a community? I don't have funds to buy, but I'd love to rent and/or share a house with someone. Any ideas on this? I'd love to have you keep me posted on your Tucson development if you would. Thanks! Ms. Lou

Here's my email: louhunt [at] cox [dot] net

Welcome to Cohousing, Lou

There are several intergenerational communities in Tucson, and people interested in creating new cohousing neighborhoods in the area. You can find all the communities using the "Directory" link on all pages of this website.

There are sometimes rentals of rooms or whole units in communities, as featured in the "Classified Ads" marketplace here... there may be more than meet the eye, as vacancies are often filled internally. The best way to learn more is to connect with the local communities and build relationships there, to be able to learn when openings are available.

Good luck in your search!

Raines Cohen, Cohousing Coach and Aging-In-Community author featured in "Audacious Aging"
at Berkeley (CA) Cohousing