In some cultures, generations of families live together in one home.
As parents age, younger generations care for them. The socialization and companionship of multi-generation homes tend to improve health and help seniors live to a very old age.
Here in the U.S that type of communal living is far less common. Perhaps our best example of seniors living together is the TV sitcom The Golden Girls where four senior women lived and laughed together. That concept of living is no longer just fiction; innovative housing developments are making it possible.
Unrelated seniors living together is called “co-housing”. The Cohousing Association of the United States supports the creation of “age-friendly cohousing communities in the U.S. – both multi-generational and senior only”. According to the association, age-friendly communities offer the following benefits:
- They are proactively designed, or retrofitted, to support aging in community and some level of co-care for aging members
- The grounds and buildings incorporate universal design to address issues of aging
- An aging in community committee is formed, an outreach/advocacy program is put in place, and the community policies are written or changed to easily adapt to the changing needs and abilities of community members; regardless of their age or circumstance
The goal of the Co-Housing Association is to foster the development of co-housing neighborhoods in which seniors can control their own “aging scenario”. It’s a way to rethink living and aging without relying on government resources like Meals on Wheels and other short term support programs.
New neighborhoods, more socialization
If you haven’t seen a cohousing neighborhood, it takes a bit of description to understand how they are constructed and why they give seniors control over their living and aging environment. Currently, there are approximately 165 communities across the nation. You can see if one is located near you in this directory.
Each community is a unique configuration that combines from 20 to 40 single-family or attached homes with a common living space. Everyone shares lawn space and walkways. Seniors have their own living space in the house that is usually around 800 or 900 square feet. They share a house that is usually about 1250 square feet and includes a kitchen, dining room, den and laundry room.
According to the AARP, in each community residents “define their collective approach to aging in community, including the limits of co-care that they are willing to provide to one another. These responsibilities, which are often defined early in the planning process and codified in the community bylaws, are commonly limited to instrumental activities of daily living such as shopping, meal preparation, and housework; they do not extend to activities of daily living such as bathing and dressing.”
Co-housing also helps seniors to enjoy lifestyle benefits that they might not be able to afford on their own.
For example, rooms or suites in the house can be rented to a caregiver. Residents pool their money to pay them and the caregiver becomes part of the community. Residents can also pool money for housekeeping services, transportation to events and other services. It’s collaboration and teamwork that improves life and aging.
Co-housing is a fascinating hybrid of living arrangements and one that is tailored toward a communal empowering of the seniors who live there.
It offers socialization, companionship and living with others who have shared interests. There is always someone to eat dinner with, or go to the movies or take a walk. There is someone who cares how you feel and there are at home when evening falls. Perhaps one of the best benefits is that the people who live in the house form a family unit of sorts.
All of these are the social attributes that help seniors to avoid isolation and depression, live well, age in better mental, physical and emotional health.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.