If you’ve been following our blog for the past few months, you’ve no doubt heard a bit about “Solo Agers,” also known as the cohort of people over the age of 55 who are living and aging alone without the help of a significant other or grown children.
In Part 1 of our blog series about Solo Agers, the Rise of the Single 55+ Homebuyer, we investigated who these people are and what steps they are taking to keep themselves independent and healthy as long as possible. Part 2 of the series asked, Why are Home Buyers Urbaning Up? This blog looked into the growing trend of older adults eschewing more rural locations for the relative ease of living in a more suburban or urban area.
This final piece (for now, at least) of our deep dive into Solo Agers will discuss one of the more interesting trends we detected when surveying our group of Solo Agers: their desire to live in close-knit communities where the residents are incentivized to help each other. One type of housing that meets this need is called co-housing.
What is Co-Housing
Co-housing communities are generally small-scale neighborhoods that provide a personal living space within a larger shared community. For example, in many co-housing communities, residents have their own “home” complete with bedroom(s), bathroom(s), living area, and kitchen, but the home is part of a larger complex that features shared amenities such as a communal kitchen, gardens, and exercise room. Co-housing communities are built specifically to foster connection between residents with physical spaces that allow neighbors to easily interact outside their private homes.
A key difference between a co-housing experience and a more traditional neighborhood lifestyle is that residents are required to “volunteer” time toward keeping the community running smoothly. Volunteer activities might include cooking a communal meal, harvesting vegetables in the garden, or answering phones in the office. In addition, many co-housing communities view each resident as being a member of their extended family. Coming together for social activities and meals is part of the residents’ daily lives and an important reason they chose this type of housing over more traditional condos, apartments, neighborhoods, or senior living communities.
The Benefits of Co-Housing
Social isolation and loneliness have been linked to serious health problems among the elderly population. For solo agers, having the company of neighbors in a co-housing experience can be a huge benefit. Not only can this type of living environment combat loneliness, but it can also supply a support network that can check in on the person during times of illness as well as help with basic chores and tasks as a person ages.
While not specifically set up to be caregivers, residents of co-housing communities report receiving help that often falls to family members, including rides to appointments, checking in during times of illness, and help with household chores such as shopping.
Types of Co-Housing Communities
Some co-housing communities are multi-generational with families, couples, and singles of all ages living and working together. Others, such as Wolf Creek Lodge in California are specifically made for active adults. According to the Co-Housing Association of the United States there are more than 165 active co-housing communities (148 built and another 17 under construction), as well as more than 140 additional communities in some stage of development.
Co-housing communities have been built in a variety of settings, with some looking more like urban condo buildings and others more like small rural villages set around a town square. Many co-housing communities are built with “green” features such as solar panels and other energy efficient power sources. Many prioritize land use for common spaces over private ones with community gardens taking the place of backyards. The designers often make a point of building close to mass transit lines so that residents can get around without driving.
As experts in marketing to those over the age of 50, with a specialty in residential housing aimed at seniors, including CCRCs, senior living communities, and 55 plus active adult communities, the team at Immersion Active will continue to monitor the trends associated with solo agers and co-housing communities. Tune in for more trend-spotting and associated information as it becomes available.