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Why Senior Cohousing is Becoming Popular Among Older Adults

5 minute read

By Heather Fishel

Communal living is popular in some places, like colleges and universities. People of similar ages and similar interests can all live together, sharing common spaces as well as hobbies, activities, and even meals. And now, a new kind of communal living is appearing: senior cohousing. Senior cohousing communities are offering older adults the opportunity to give communal living a try. These communities cater specifically to the needs of seniors, making them a comfortable and exciting new option.

With more than 160 senior cohousing communities in 25 different states and another 130 communities planned, it’s clear cohousing is on the rise¹. Senior cohousing offers older adults a new option, an alternative to traditional retirement communities. / Shutterstock

If you’re wondering why senior cohousing is growing in popularity, there are plenty of benefits. Here’s what this unique living arrangement has to offer adults age 50 and up.

What is Senior Cohousing?

Senior cohousing is a kind of community-based living arrangement just for adults age 50 and older. In a senior cohousing community, individual seniors live in single-family homes or apartments and share common spaces like lawns, walkways, and outdoor spaces². In some senior cohousing communities, seniors enjoy their own personal living spaces and share a kitchen, dining room, and living room³.

Simply put, senior cohousing is a combination of independent living and shared spaces.

Senior cohousing allows seniors to form a unique community with peers. They live near and are surrounded by others within their age group who share interests, goals, and more. Seniors who live in these cohousing communities can do group activities together, spend time together, and share resources. They might watch TV shows together, go on group outings, cook meals, and even garden as a group.

And senior cohousing is quite different from other retirement living options. Typically, only active seniors live in cohousing, as those who join need to be able to contribute and share resources with the rest of the community⁴. This makes cohousing similar to independent senior living or a traditional retirement community.

Adults who struggle with illness or a lack of mobility aren’t suited for senior cohousing. A senior cohousing community isn’t designed to offer medical support, monitoring, or round-the-clock care like an assisted living facility. Those who live in cohousing must be able to function independently.

Senior Cohousing Offers Plenty of Benefits

As increasingly more seniors discover cohousing and choose to leave traditional living arrangements behind, others are wondering why cohousing is popular. The truth is that senior cohousing offers a lot of benefits. And many of these benefits can’t be found in other living options for adults ages 50 and older.

The following are just a few of the significant benefits that come with senior cohousing.

Reduced Loneliness

According to Time, one out of every three seniors is lonely – and nearly 30 percent of seniors say they often feel isolated and alone⁵. As adults get older, they may find themselves spending a lot of time at home, unable to interact with friends and family.

However, a senior cohousing community can combat that loneliness and isolation. Because residents share common spaces like gardens, recreational areas, and even kitchens, seniors are able to interact with their peers more regularly. Senior cohousing also features community events designed to bring residents together, whether that’s via potluck dinners, group outings, or parties.

Activities Can Benefit Seniors’ Health

Like retirement communities, senior cohousing brings older adults together. This can help seniors live a more active lifestyle as they age. And that can greatly benefit seniors’ health, both physically and mentally.

Cohousing communities can include perks like shared dining rooms, fitness facilities, and even pools or parks. And all of these features can encourage seniors to get outside, connect with other adults, and do some physical activity. According to research, that activity can directly benefit seniors as it slows down mental decline⁶. With regular activity, seniors can benefit their brains and bodies overall with increased blood flow, better mental health, and improvements in the brain’s function.

Safety and Security

When seniors live in a cohousing community, they also benefit from increased safety and security. It’s common for all cohousing communities to look out for their members, watching their houses while out of town, caring for their pets, and checking in on those in need.

And in senior cohousing, residents can enjoy even more of that safety and security with neighbors watching out for them. As Senior Advice notes, those who struggle with mobility, memory issues, or other signs of health issues could get help sooner as neighbors advocate for them⁷. While seniors who live alone might forgo medical help and not have anyone checking in on them, those in cohousing can get help from those who live near them. This provides more peace of mind as seniors age.

Cohousing is an Affordable Option

In addition to providing older adults with different social, personal, and health benefits, senior cohousing offers one more big perk. It’s surprisingly affordable, especially for those on fixed incomes.

Senior cohousing can be more affordable and a more cost-effective choice for older adults. Seniors need to make their fixed incomes and retirement savings last, and housing is a huge expense. But living in a cohousing community could help reduce the cost of housing, all while providing additional benefits.

And seniors can save hundreds or thousands of dollars when they choose cohousing. The savings can be significant – according to Senior Advice, a senior could save $70,000 compared to other popular senior living arrangements⁸. In some states, subsidized cohousing is available, and the cost could be as low as $500⁹.

Additionally, seniors are encouraged to pool and share resources in cohousing. For example, senior residents can share lawn care costs, food and grocery costs, energy and other utility costs, and even maintenance expenses. This varies from location to location, but you should check into the costs of cohousing in your area.

How to Start Looking for Senior Cohousing

As senior cohousing becomes even more popular in the months and years ahead, increasingly more people will be looking to move in. That’s why it’s a good idea to start considering cohousing early on – and you should do your research now. Starting your search early can help you find the right cohousing opportunity at a price you can afford.

When you’re researching different senior cohousing options, you can start your search online. Make sure to consider factors like cost, available amenities, access to doctors and other important services, and what the community is like. Ask about what resources and spaces are shared among residents. Discuss activities and community events.

In your search, you should also compare different cohousing communities. That’s the best way to determine which community will suit your budget, your interests, and your needs. You want a senior cohousing arrangement that gives you independence and flexibility, connections and social events but also your own space. And assessing and comparing all of your options is the best way to find the right community.

Heather Fishel