AGING GRACEFULLY IN MULTI-GENERATIONAL COHOUSING
Have you noticed that folks in your cohousing community are getting older? You moved in five, or ten, or fifteen years ago and people who were in their fifties and sixties are now starting to look old and perhaps suffer from the effects of aging. Your community may have begun to wonder how you will handle aging in community. As folks get frailer, can they remain in your community? Can your community help maintain your senior citizens in their cohousing homes as they age? Are your oldest members wondering how they can still contribute and how they will be supported in community? Has your community formed an “aging in community” group or committee?
For the past five and a half years our “Actively Growing Older Gracefully” (AGOG) group of fifteen (ages 60 – 80) strong has been meeting every month. We live in Rocky Hill Cohousing, Northampton, Massachusetts, a multi-generational community with many young families. Early on we decided to begin our monthly meeting with a potluck supper, before our extensive sharing and discussion time. The AGOG group has explored such topics as heath care proxies, end of life decisions, aging in place, green burials, elder services available in our area, etc. We have read and discussed together Atul Gwande’s Being Mortal and Ezekiel Emanuel’s “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” We have met with a gerontologist and the palliative care doctor heading our local Hospice program. Two years ago the community endorsed and we formed an “Aging in Community Team” to provide assistance where needed.
Most significant is that we have engaged in extensive personal sharing at each meeting, getting to know each other better. After nearly six years, this sharing of our lives has created a strong sense of bond between us. We have also discussed aging with the younger members of Rocky Hill Cohousing, who are very supportive.
I will be facilitating a Saturday afternoon seminar at the Portland national cohousing conference on the subject of aging in multi-generational cohousing. I will share what AGOG has done and what it has meant to its members, including some documents and photos. I then want to hear what other cohousing communities have done in this area. We can all learn from each other as we address concerns about aging in cohousing. Please come to share your experiences and concerns and ask questions that others may be able to answer