With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day, our world is amidst a cultural shift. Industries are changing to be more accommodating for seniors and people with disabilities who need extra assistance. One example of this is the way in which elderly adults envision their future, more specifically where they see themselves living. Traditionally, the housing choices made available for an aging adult were:
-Move in with an adult child or other family member
-Relocate to a retirement community
-Stay in their own house for as long as possible (whether by themselves or with a spouse)
-Uproot to a long-term care facility or a nursing home.
While we know that for most seniors, the ideal situation is to stay at home for as long as possible to live independently. For many baby boomers, this is a viable option; modifying a home using grab bars and other assistive technology to make it safer can help homeowners take back their independence and live at home for longer. However, for some aging adults who require extra assistance, medical care, or have various medical or mental health problems, living alone at home isn’t the safest option. Whether you know someone that is a senior, or you’re planning for your own future, the good news is this: your choices for how and where to live as an older adult are growing. New and innovative designs and living models offer our aging population more creative living options for seniors with different levels of independence and a variety of needs.
In her book, With a Little Help From Our Friends: Creating Community As We Grower Older, author Beth Baker tells us stories of people creating and designing innovative ways to live as retirement approaches. These alternatives ensure that friends, family, and neighbors surround the aging adult for the extra support they need to thrive, and many are surprisingly more affordable than you’d think. Here are 6 innovative housing options for seniors:
Currently, home sharing has become one of the most popular options for seniors looking to keep their sense of independence without living alone. The idea is that you would rent out a room or multiple rooms in your house or someone else’s house. It may be a friend, family member, or even a tenant. This is a cost efficient option and when the two people living together are of the same generation, companionship becomes a bi-product. Sometimes, two seniors living alone may even buy or rent a new home together for a safer living situation. To meet the demand for housing like this, home-matching services are becoming increasingly popular. A home-matching services could even match an aging adult who no longer has driving abilities to a younger person who would be willing to help with driving and a few caregiving responsibilities for cheaper rent.
In a situation such as cohousing, a person or a family purchases a residence like an apartment, townhouse, or single-family house. These houses would contain everything you’d see in a typical home, but residences are linked by a shared space like a yard, a trail, a common room or dining area that can accommodate group gatherings. This type of housing is aimed at providing seniors with a safe sense of community while living independently. Some large senior cohousing communities are now built so that they can allow for residents to hire household and care services if need be.
Also referred to by the acronym NORC, these communities are similar to a cohousing situation. As the title implies, this is simply a neighborhood or location in a city that happens to have a large number of seniors living in it but who work together to create a network of shared support services. Whether it be neighbors offering driving services to each other, dog walking or care, or facilitating group activities within the neighborhood, this is an ideal living situation for someone who wants to age in place, or stay at home--even if it means moving to a new, more senior-friendly neighborhood.
Generally not age specific, these member-owned, resident-governed nonprofit communities are common in certain urban cities. A co-op can be made up of a collection of single-family houses, mobile homes, or apartments. A “co-op board”, consisting of elected residents, decides which shared services the co-op will provide. Now, even in rural areas, mobile home cooperatives are increasing in popularity, particularly in the Midwest.
Also referred to as Affinity Retirement Communities, these are your traditional retirement communities. They are age restricted, usually 55-plus, and enable older adults to live independently but with access to social activities and community amenities like yard maintenance or recreation and fitness facilities. You see many of these in retirement destinations such as Arizona and Florida. The term “niche” or “affinity” comes from the idea that residents in the community share a common interest, religion, or belief such as ethnicity, sexual orientation, or occupation.
Similar to other senior communities, villages actually provide services to all paying members. You join one (on average $400 per year for an individual, $650 for a household) and stay in the comfort of your own home. The support of volunteers, many of who are members themselves as well as the support from vetted, sometimes discounted service providers offer services specifically for helping seniors. You simply call one number and request whatever service you need. Villages also important and exciting opportunities to get out of the house to socialize
All these options for seniors living are a sign of the times; things are changing to meet the needs of our changing population. The central theme in all of these senior housing situations is a strong sense of community and helping one’s neighbor. While we went through a few decades where back doors and back patios were more popular than front porches, the baby boomer comes from a generation that remembers the importance of knowing your neighbors. This is why these new types of senior living communities are such an easy transition for a lot of aging adults. If you’re looking for new living options for a loved one or yourself, do your research. Enlist the help of professionals like A Place Like Mom or Seniorly.com for guidance and professional advice on all things senior housing.