Group hanging outside at picnic table

Aging Well

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77 million boomers by 203020% of the U.S. population
10,000 people turn 65 every daySeniors lack housing stock

This demographic shift offers challenges and opportunities. Although aging adults have needs, they also have a wealth of resources, skills, and experiences they can contribute to society.

As the number of older people swells, it is critical that policy makers, non-profit and for-profit sectors, and industry leaders adequately prepare for this unprecedented phenomenon.

 Why Senior Cohousing?

Age-friendly and accessible housing stock is enough for only 3% of the current population.  Many older adults continue to live in the same oversized, energy-inefficient house where they raised a family, and may continue to drive longer than is safe in order to do errands and make connections with friends.

Isolation is dangerous and unhealthy  As we age, our health often deteriorates unnecessarily due to loneliness and depression. According to Harper’s Magazine, suicide has increased by over 50% for adults over 50 in the last ten years. Estranged folks in particular have less motivation to get up and get going. In the 1995 Chicago heat wave, three quarters of the heat related deaths occurred among residents older than 65 years of age (Klinenberg, 2002).

Many studies conclusively show that there are health consequences to isolation. Poor social connections, infrequent participation in social activities, and social disengagement predict the risk of cognitive decline in elderly individuals. (Zunzunegui et al., 2002). In contrast, those who participate in community groups such as clubs, churches, and support groups experience a 30% lower risk for death than those living alone.

Isolation is expensive and inefficient   As the number of seniors expands and government budgets decrease, services for older people will continually be cut, making it more difficult for public/community agencies to provide services such as Meals on Wheels, van rides, etc.  First responders are hard hit by the growing population of older Americans. For example, one fire chief said that more than half the calls they receive are to simply pick up an elderly person and put them back in their chair or bed. 

Cohousing improves health outcomes; reduces the need for senior services   Senior cohousing has proven to be an innovative, cost effective model that improves health, reduces the need for senior services, enhances individual contributions on a larger scale, and makes life more affordable and fun. The efficiency of smaller homes also protects the environment.

Cohousing lessens pressures on the medical community  Cohousing seniors are healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally, requiring fewer medical and social services. Studies of cohousing residents show that the support they receive during precipitating events such as surgery, heart attacks, etc., enables a quicker recovery and  aging in place much longer than those who live alone or have less community support.

Cohousing Promotes Aging Well

Physical design that supports aging in place such as limited stairs or none, and safety features like railings and non-slip flooring; accessible showers and tubs; easy-to-access storage and hooks for things like towels and robes at eye level; wider doorways and lower countertops for possible wheelchair use; good acoustics in the common house/common spaces.

Independence through Interdependence is a key difference between cohousing and other kinds of retirement communities. In the latter, paid caretakers provide services, and residents become dependent, without a way to help others. Interdependence in a cohousing community is a natural result of sharing common spaces, living close together, bonding through activities, and getting to know each other while running the community.

Cultivating meaning and purpose  Cohousing helps us grow through the commitment and effort needed to live together and allowing us to create something larger than ourselves. It also affords us time to be of service in the larger community.

Saging – the wisdom of age In his book, From Aging to Sage-ing (, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi expresses the belief that our usefulness as people has no expiration date. We are never over the hill. Rather, we have a great deal to give back to the world that has given us so much. The qualities of saging qualities include openness, flexibility, compassion, intellectual curiosity and humility. Cohousing provides opportunities to practice compassionate listening, take a nonjudgmental and non-adversarial attitude, and become comfortable with diverse points of view.

:: Senior Cohousing links ::
 Senior CohousingAging WellBooks and other ResourcesIn the MediaCommunity Spotlight