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Elder Cohousing

A new option for retirement — or sooner!

Cohousing

Neighbors examine the architect's model of their Silver Sage Village, senior cohousing that combines privacy and community. — Courtesy of The Cohousing Company

'Senior' housing appeals to boomers, too

Don't be fooled by the word "senior." Many opting for this arrangement are in their 50s, 60s and early 70s and often still work. They're in good health when they move in. The plan is that when they get sick, there will be lots of helping hands, which will supplement, although not replace, professional help if needed.

Multigenerational cohousing, where families with young children live with residents of all ages, has been around awhile; there are more than 100 of these mixed-age communities nationwide. But senior cohousing (often age 50-plus) is the new kid on the block. So far, there are five such projects, in California, Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico, with 15 more being planned.

Both kinds of cohousing, intergenerational and senior — sometimes called elder cohousing — are attracting boomers. At Silver Sage Village in Boulder, Colo., just two of the 16 units have turned over since it opened three years ago (one death, one change of heart), and they've both been snapped up by couples in their early 60s. The rest of their group ranges from their mid-50s to their 80s. Having a broad age span ensures that people will age at different times, and there will always be those who can work, whether it's preparing a meal, tending the common garden or sitting on a committee.

Less is more

Many boomers are empty nesters ready to downsize and age in place. They like the balance between privacy and rich social interaction, and the idea of going green — both environmentally and fiscally. Cohousing residences are typically 60 percent smaller than an average new American home, occupy 30 percent less land and use 50 to 70 percent less energy for heating and cooling than a resident's previous home. Having houses attached preserves outside space and reinforces a sense of community. The 20 to 30 units might be lined up on both sides of a walkway with their front porches facing one another, for example, or maybe grouped around a courtyard. Sharing resources reduces individual costs.

Next: Residents are in complete control. >>

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