Nursing homes and retiring homes now have a tough competitor to beat. Senior citizens who don’t want to live alone but are not attracted to the idea of assisted living either, now have another option: cohousing.
Cohousing is basically a housing model/option in which several senior citizens live together, act as a community and help each other instead of relying on nurses or specialized, paid personnel.
While this type of living arrangement wasn’t initially developed specifically for the elderly, senior cohousing has become more and more popular throughout the world. It was first embraced by Europe (Denmark, Germany and other countries) and has gained popularity all across the Globe.
How does senior cohousing work?
Cohousing is mainly based on the concepts of social interaction, community and sharing. People who want to adhere to this housing arrangement choose each other and agree on the design of the living space/building. The living space consists in both private and shared areas. The actual apartments for instance are private, the income of each resident is also private, while the garden, laundry, maybe even kitchen and other facilities are shared within the community. All the residents are actively involved in administrating the property, making decisions and taking care of it. They help each other, share tools, socialize and, well, cohabitate.
Benefits of cohousing among the elderly
The advantages of cohousing for senior citizens are indisputable. There is an increasing number of old adults who lost their spouse, don’t have any younger relatives to take care of them or who simply don’t want to feel like a drag for their loved ones. Getting old doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t rely on your own capabilities or you can’t still be independent. And it doesn’t mean you have to die alone or live the rest of your days alone. That’s where the cohousing concept comes in. Cohousing allows you to still live independently, maintain your privacy and still belong to a community, have friends and socialize. The costs are lower than paying for a private nurse and you also feel useful and secure. In a cohousing community, everybody knows everybody and you know the others are looking out for you.
The emotional implications are also important: research shows that seniors who are part of a cohousing community live up to 10 years longer than in traditional housing. They feel happier and more fulfilled.
Of course there is a downside to cohousing as well: you have to find the balance between socializing and being an active part of the community and still being an individual. While you do get to meet all your cohabitants within the first 24 to 48 hours, that doesn’t mean you’ll still get along in the long run. It may take you a lifetime to truly get to know someone and your neighbors can be your best friends or your worst nightmare. But we are social beings and we have to learn to live and let live. Wherever there’s any kind of community involved, you have to deal with the positives and the negatives of all those involved and always strive to enhance your social skills and maintain your tolerance.