Seniors Living with Seniors To Age in Place

By Toni Lynn Davis, MHA, CNHA, FACHCA
CEO and President Green Hill Inc.

Growing up around senior care all my life I have often thought about what I would want in a living situation when I am older. Spending the majority of my life as a single mom and an independent woman, my friends and I would often envision that we would all live together. Even today we imagine ourselves in a Green House® Home together. Being a part of a tight knit community is what makes family. It is what we crave as humans especially as we age. I often teasingly remind my children that they will have to take care of me when I am aged, but the truth is like many elders I wouldn’t want to burden them. I will want my own home where I have friends and people I trust around me, who enjoy the same things I enjoy, and who are going through the same things that I am.

Collective living, co-housing, and home sharing for seniors can be a cost effective and emotionally supportive opportunity for elders who have, or don’t have partners, and an alternative to a retirement community, an institutional nursing home or the isolating experience of aging in place alone. Generally the idea for collective living, co-housing and home sharing includes, shared living spaces, cooking, chores, and sometimes shared finances. Co-housing and home sharing may include private bedrooms and bathrooms in a single family home. Collective housing and co-housing can be separate houses for each resident or pair around a centrally shared outdoor or indoor space. Today we see many senior living options heading in this direction providing more choice.

Planned communities have proliferated across the country for 55 years of age and over in which to live, work and socialize together. The smaller scale home sharing of two or more seniors is a concept that has been slower to materialize.

The Cohousing Association of the United States, http://www.cohousing.org, is an organization that promotes self-determining co-housing that is mostly intergenerational, but the basic concept is the same as for elders. Co-housing for elders provides both privacy and kinship and support for aging in place in a household community of friends going through the same stage of life. Co-housing for seniors is best for those who are outgoing, enjoy being around others, and have had some experience in a collective living experience. If one has always lived alone cohousing may not be for them.

Roommates and co-habitants in a house sharing arrangement can provide support and assistance when one becomes frail. Long-term care providers are still necessary if one should become dependent upon others for support for daily activities and living care. Roommates should not be considered ones’ long-term care providers. In a co-housing environment care providers can be hired collectively and the expenses shared amongst the residents who need it.

There are many do’s and dont’s when one is considering joining or starting a senior co-housing community. The Senior Cohousing Handbook by Charles Durrett is a great resource to help understand some of the challenges and opportunities presented by senior cohousing. http://www.newsociety.com/Books/S/The-Senior-Cohousing-Handbook-2nd-Edition.

Shared housing does require finding compatible people. A good resource for more information about this option is the National Shared Housing Resource Center, http://nationalsharedhousing.org/index.html, part of the Homeshare International organization, http://homeshare.org.

At Green Hill self-determination in aging is a primary goal of the living experience that we provide and a cornerstone of the Culture Change movement. As a nursing home and senior residence, the collective living experience is provided and the intimate nature of co-housing is carefully orchestrated for the benefit of our residents. The Green House Homes at Green Hill integrate the communal experience of co-housing in a single house, including 24 hour nursing care and the accessibility of intimate social contact, shared experience, security, and self determination of daily activities.

I continually work to create for other seniors the primary elements of my vision for the co-housing experience in an intimate setting at Green Hill’s Legacy Building complete with the grand old house setting. The addition of the Green House Homes redefines that concept even more intimately in the nursing care setting. Whatever one desires for their living arrangements, as a senior citizen through to elder age, living with others provides a physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthier environment for living. Sharing expenses and responsibilities of living in a home is an added benefit for those on a fixed income.