Remember . . . I am a champion of senior living and assisted living but I am intrigued by the co-housing movement and see opportunity for the industry.

Remember  . . . I am a champion of senior living and assisted living but I am intrigued by the co-housing movement and see opportunity for the industry. . . but it could be a threat. Over the past several weeks there have been several articles about “non-traditional” or co-housing senior living arrangements, always referencing the Golden Girls TV show.  Here are 4 examples all published during the month of July 2014: Retiring with roommates: The merits of shared living as you age Looking for a Housemate, Not a Mate, in Later Life Golden Girls: More seniors sharing homes for companionship, cost splitting Boomer roomies: Older Americans are seeking roommates The Benefits There are some downsides to these co-housing options, such as less private space, a lower level of services and less regulatory oversight. But it sill pretty easy to see why these non-traditional options already have legs and could see increasing momentum:

  • They are more affordable for seniors with limited incomes.
  • They make it more likely that a senior or groups of seniors can stay in their own neighborhood.
  • To the extent that a senior can provide for their own needs in areas like cooking, cleaning, bathing and dressing, they can reduce the need for paid assistance.
  • In a communal setting they can share workloads, again reducing costs.
  • The living setting ends up looking more like and feeling more like the home or apartment they lived in prior to the new arrangement. While I think life enrichment programs are one of the big benefits of senior living, they don’t look very much like pre-senior living life.

In a very real sense this “new” co-housing movement is really a retro movement, in part mimicking the traditional small home board and care setting, still a healthy, though mostly ignored, part of the senior living ecosystem.  It also has elements of old time boarding houses, where people rented rooms and received or purchased meals and other services and needed or desired. And then there is the multi-generational family model. Multigenerational Co-housing It used to be common to have multiple generations living under the same roof.  I remember my great-grandparents living with my grandparents for years.  I had many friends, growing up in small town Northern California, who lived in homes with parents and grandparents. It worked well.  Grandparents contributed to household chores and it reduced costs for everyone.  There was a passing of wisdom and family lore. In the past 50 or so years we have become much more obsessed with generational .privacy. Thiis has been a great opportunity for senior living.  As elders need more assistance there is no room and no desire, often on both sides, to move them into the next generation’s home. I believe that moving back toward the more traditional model would be healthy for society and would provide many practical and economic benefits. I think we will see more multigenerational living within families.  I also see a move in that direction for seniors who don’t have family: they can move in with families who are trying to afford the purchase of a home but overburdened with everyday expenses. Opportunity I have this vision of a senior living company creating hybrid housing models that are adjacent to more traditional senior living options.  They would have the advantage of further spreading the costs of care staff and food service while providing seniors and families with lower cost, more flexible options. So what do you think? Steve

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