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Boomers Redefine Retirement Living

They are shaping the future of housing


Dinner at Wolf Creek Village in Nevada City, Calif. Intergenerational cohousing is geared to families with younger children. Members share a common house and communal meals. — Melissa Golden


The concept: A group, usually composed of strangers at the start, creates a communal-type housing arrangement that is intergenerational or all older people, with separate units but some shared common space. The group may buy the property, help design it, make all rules by consensus and manage it independently. Residents eat some dinners together and often form deep relationships.

The numbers: 112 intergenerational cohousing communities, with another 40 to 50 planned; four elder cohousing projects, with 20 or so in the works. More than half are in California.

The price: $100,000 to $750,000, monthly fees $100 to $300; 10 percent of projects offer rentals for $600 to $2,000 a month.

Intergenerational cohousing is geared to families with younger children but also draws boomer couples and singles. The youngest elder cohousing residents are in their 60s. Members live in separate, fully equipped attached or clustered units, and share outdoor space and a common house where communal meals take place. The common house also contains a living room and guest (or caretaker's) quarters. What's in the rest of the space depends on the members; it could be a media or crafts room, or a studio for exercise and meditation.

"I think cohousing is a marvelous way to live," says Bernice Turoff, an 85-year-old widow and member of the intergenerational Nevada City Cohousing community in California. "It's a close community where people really care about one another. If you get sick, 14 people say, 'How can I help you?' "

Charles Durrett, her neighbor and an architect who, along with his wife, Kathryn McCamant, brought the concept of cohousing to the United States from Denmark in the 1980s, says older members act as surrogate grandparents. Last year, when one of the older residents was dying, all ages pitched in to help or visit.

Today, older boomers live in both intergenerational and elder cohousing. "I'd be surprised if cohousing doesn't double every couple of years in the next 20 years," says Durrett. Getting popular: cohousing in cities.

Next: Green House operates like a cozy home. >>

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