The purpose of this blog is to spotlight innovative approaches to housing and community that enable people to hold on to their independence and friendships as they age.
My friends and I have been feeling the first quivers of mortality as our kids begin to leave the nest. For so long, home has been peopled by these children that we've nurtured and shared our lives with. The immediate challenge of the coming few years will be to redefine that home and our lives without the kids present. But looking further ahead, what will happen in a couple of decades, when the kids are still gone but we are frail and older?
We're all watching or have watched our parents run up against this -- as houses become too difficult to maintain, illness swoops in, partners are felled, driving and traveling become a challenge. What's that line about how getting old is not for the weak?
For years I've had a dream that a group of friends and I would buy an old summer camp and retrofit it so that we each had a cabin of our own but the main mess hall was turned into a little center for us where we could hang out, wave at each other from our wheelchairs, and get help from our aides who would come in and assist us there or maybe cook great meals for us. Kind of a self-defined retirement community. It would be in a nice place so that our kids and grandkids would look forward to spending their vacations there. There would be guestrooms and bunkrooms so our visitors would have a place to stay.
Everyone I mention the idea to is enthusiastic, but in truth it's a huge project, a huge commitment, and most of us don't have extra money floating around to invest in buying such a property. Creating a community like this would entail a host of decisions to be hammered out regarding ownership, governance, and liquidity. Further, the reality of land prices dictates that such a property would almost certainly be a substantial distance from where we all live right now, calling for yet another kind of suspension of disbelief.
But it turns out that there are people who have actually done this, and who have a name for it: retrofit cohousing. It also turns out that there are a lot of other great, innovative ideas for aging in community out there that people are trying out -- right now!: aging in place, built-from-scratch co-housing, interest-based retirement communities and more. In this blog, I want to highlight some of these efforts.