For a lot of people choosing a place to retire can be an intimidating process. You know you want to move somewhere more suitable for your retired lifestyle, but where? And if moving alone wasn't a big hassle, how about the trauma of making new friends all over again?
A better solution might be to start your own community, and take your friends with you. That's what happening in a lot of places around the country, and it makes sense. If you are interested in the idea there are more and more resources and grants to help show you how to do it. An article in US News, "How to Build Your Own Retirement Village", is one of those helpful resources.
Faced with the prospect of moving or staying in their own house, most retirees choose to stay. The problem with that is that it usually only works for so long - if you live long enough your own home can become a dangerous and lonely choice.
The Cooperative Retirement Movement
The cooperative senior housing movement has several different offshoots including: co-housing, Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), and aging in place. They all share the same common objective –finding a way to keep people living in their own homes longer and in a way that promotes health, safety, and a rich social life. Let’s look at each movement.
Co-housing (cohousing) takes many forms but usually combines independent living with the sharing of some communal facilities. The movement started in the 1960’s in Denmark. Most cohousing communities are located in rural areas. One of the most famous, Silver Sage in Boulder Colorado, features single family homes with a large common area where residents gather to eat, recreate, do yoga, and socialize. This community is located next to a mixed generation community so residents do not feel separated from people of other ages. The residents are committed to supporting one another in their retirements and as they age.
Beacon Hill Village
Naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs) occur where a significant concentration of the residents happen to be of retirement age. The most famous of these is Beacon Hill Village in Boston, which has a formal organization that promotes cooperative living. Members pay an annual fee to be part of Beacon Hill Village and get many services in exchange. They can also barter for services (shopping, driving, eldercare, cooking, home repairs, etc.). The idea is to let people keep living where they have for years and years by giving them the tools to live well and happily. Similar ventures are in place or planned in a number of other communities. NORCs are a great example of aging in place strategies in action.
Another good example of a cooperative approach to retirement living was profiled in the February 1, 2009 NY Times, “My Sister’s Keeper“. The article explores the world of about 20 women who have built a lesbian only community in rural Alabama called Alapine. The women enjoy a communal lifestyle in their gated community and get together frequently for pot-luck dinners, poetry reading, etc. There are other lesbian communities like Alapine elsewhere in the country. The idea could be and is applied to other groups of like-minded people who choose to live among their own kind in a world of their own creation.
Start your own co-op community
Beacon Hill Village and the co-housing movement are eager for other communities to take up their approaches to retirement. You can buy workbooks and talk with their members for advice. Let’s say you have a core of friends or acquaintances in your area. The US News article has resources and tips to help.
One solution that would take a lot of organization, skill, and energy, is to buy a distressed property and develop it with your friends. If you plan well and choose your members carefully, you could end up with your own retirement community – one that fits your lifestyle on your terms – and that gives you all the perks and benefits you are looking for. As you age you could hire eldercare and medical assistance and use these services cooperatively. The major advantage is that you get to live with friends or relatives you like, instead of ending up in a long hall of out of it strangers.
US News "Build Your Own Retirement Village"
Choose Your Own Neighbors