Aging in Community 2019 Update

Progress in the Aging in Community Movement: 

Three Themes You Need to Know About

In 2019, today’s elders are taking ownership of aging in community like never before. As I’ve been tracking the developments, some major themes have started standing out, and I’d like to take this opportunity to share them with you now. 

When I look at the movement today, I’m equally excited by how far we’ve come in some areas and daunted by how far we still have to go in others.

Recent trends in aging in community show a generation that is revolutionizing how people we will live in our homes and stay connected with the community as we age. I outline what I view as some of the biggest successes and challenges of our movement below.

Together, we stand poised to change the face of aging in our society. But we’ll only get there if we show up and do what it takes. 

I’ve been hard at work for the last several months working on my own foundation for aging in community. I urge you to do the same.

Theme #1: Aging in Community Approaches Critical Mass

When I first started writing, speaking, and organizing about this topic more than ten years ago, there weren’t that many people who were talking about aging in community. There were just a handful of leaders out there with a limited audience of people who were taking the topic seriously. 

And it was a little frustrating sometimes talking over and over with people who seemed to be waiting for someone else to build their ideal community for them and just tell them about. And that’s NOT how it works.

But I don’t feel like I’m a lone voice in the night anymore. Today, it feels like we are turning a corner with enough of us waking up. More people than ever are taking ownership of how and where they are going to age and who they are going to do it with. There is a momentum caused by enough people getting involved and becoming for the change they want to see in the world that the Aging in Community movement is making real progress. 

Charles Durrett leading a cohousing workshop

I see this in news sources I watch where there are headlines about new communities, housing alternatives, related housing initiatives, and resources in the news everyday. 

I see it in changes in legislation like the Golden Girls Act up in Canada. 

I see this in educational programs and workshops that are taking place this year like Charles Durrett’s workshop at the 2019 National Cohousing Conference. I have a presentation coming up myself introducing alternative housing choices to a new group near Asheville, NC locally at a retreat in October 2019 called 50Forward.  

I also see this in the thriving online communities that are really growing and buzzing with activity, particularly on Facebook. Some are general interest groups about housing alternatives for older folks like Sixty and Me. Others serve the needs of specific groups, such as Elder OrphansWomen Living in Community, and Decolonizing the Crone

And it’s all happening because enough people are showing up and making it happen. 

Theme #2: Boomers are Leading the Residential Revolution in Community Building, Especially Cohousing

Interest in community living has also really picked up steam for people of all ages have gotten tired of living in an isolated world and refuse to do it anymore. But its older people who are leading the charge in most cases, cohousing in particular. 

More than 160 cohousing communities have been formed in the United States since it was introduced to the country in the 1980’s. At least 125 additional cohousing communities are being developed right now. 

And, if you visit most of them, you’ll find that the founders and most of the people living there tend to be  boomers who have chosen to age in community and made it happen. 

If you would like to dig deeper on this trend, I have some further resources below:

Theme #3: Unprecedented Pace in Creating More Alternative Structures & Repurpose Existing Structures 

It doesn’t seem like a month has gone by that I haven’t heard of some exciting new developments in alternative housing design. And most of these structures are designed for boomers who have realized that they are the first generation to be able to choose what types of structures they are going to age in a way that no generation before could have dreamed was possible. 

Here are a couple of examples of alternative structures that can easily be incorporated into aging in community.

Minka Homes

The latest creation of Dr. Bill Thomas, Minka believe it’s time for a new housing story. Minka designs, pre-fabricates and delivers sensibly-sized kit homes that can either stand alone, act as accessory dwelling units or be combined to develop pocket neighborhoods.

She Sheds

A small building separate from the main home, reserved specifically for the use of an adult woman, in which she can relax and pursue her interests. While they were designed to be the female equivalent of an outdoor man cave, they can also provide community designers with interesting options for pocket neighborhoods.

Repurposing Existing Properties for Seniors in 2019

At the same time, there is a growing interest in finding innovative new ways of repurposing structures that we already have. And seniors sharing homes has been on the rise for a while now.

Several years ago, I lived in a community for seniors on this model in which I lived with a handful of other great women (click here for a video all about it). Together, we lived in a house that was originally designed for an average family that we repurposed for aging in community as women living together in an intentional environment.

Here are three examples of similar projects that are getting off the ground in 2019.

  • The Oak Hill coliving home is an example of something similar that formed in 2019 thanks to Canada’s Golden Girl Act. 
  • Hibiscus Commons is a new senior cooperative housing project that is part of the Bay Area Community Land Trust that has a focus on exploring affordable options. They are doing so by finding ways to repurpose unused or underutilized properties. 
  • Village Hearth is an LGBT-focused, ages 55+, community in Durham, NC, with 15 acres of wooded land just 20 minutes from downtown. 

These are just a few examples of the types of projects that have gotten established recently. There are many more.

My recent experience with some of the above:

Until early 2019, I was developing a pocket neighborhood that was designed to incorporate both repurposing an existing home and building new modular structures for aging in community. 

This included using a mid-century ranch house that would have functioned as a community center and coliving opportunity for a few people, plus a series of six to twelve modular homes for people desiring shared space.

You can learn more about this project in my own 2019 personal update

Moving forward and what’s to come

The Grand Nudge wants you to take ownership of whether and how you age in community.

While there’s a lot to be excited about in the world of aging in community, it’s important to understand that your ideal community isn’t just going to land on your doorstep in 2019 or any time soon. As some of you know, that’s a message that The Grand Nudge believes in very strongly.

It’s up to you to take ownership of how you age and be the captain of your own quest for home. If you are new to the topic or could use some tools in exploring this journey, I encourage you to explore my book, My Quest for Home.

And there’s also a lot that still needs to happen moving forward within the Aging in Community movement, particularly in the areas of affordable housing, getting local governments on board, and creating good matching services for senior housing. 

I hope that you found this update on themes I’m seeing in the Aging in Community helpful. 

If you’re not already signed up, be sure to subscribe for updates from the Women Living in Community Network now. That’s the easiest way to know when a new post has been published. 

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WLIC Blog


The Sound of Silence

Silence2

We’ve been silent since the end of 2015; the silence was intentional – one of renewal, rejuvenation and looking forward.  We’ve made significant changes and those changes required time to absorb and adjust. As many of you know I’ve moved out of the shared housing arrangement that had defined me for so many years and into my own home. Many thought this change was a move backward and in contradiction to my quest to promote aging in community. Have you ever heard the saying, “Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward?”

In this case, that’s exactly what I did. An opportunity presented itself; one that allowed me to create my own shared home environment (previously, I was renting the house I shared and now, I own it). What’s more, an opportunity then immediately presented itself to expand my home boundaries and purchase additional acreage.  The dream of creating a community centered on the principles of Aging in Community (description here) is now underway to becoming a reality. There will be more news and information on this but in the meantime, I wanted to share with you what’s been happening during the silence:

In January 2015, the Detroit Public TV aired a documentary, “When I’m 65: Rethinking Retirement in America” for which I had been interviewed a year ago. The documentary features people from across the country in the midst of retirement and showcases the challenges, fears and opportunities we all face.  As a result of these interviews, they also published 3 videos, one features our shared housing arrangement and the other features Asheville’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville (OLLIE).

You can click here to see the videos (ours is at the bottom).

To see the full documentary, click here (we are featured 46 minutes in) but the entire video is worth watching. Watching this now (it just aired) was a demonstration of how much and how quickly things can change.

In March 2016, I was featured in WNC Woman’s magazine issue. I discussed how “Improvisational Living begins with Community.” It was a great reminder of the mission and vision I have held all these years for Women for Living in Community especially as we move from dreaming to doing in the next chapter.  We discussed the top 5 things that create controversy in community which was a great reminder as I begin to work out the plans for a real community in Asheville, NC.  We also discussed the missing element of today’s communities that are focused on seniors or retirees and those are the interpersonal aspects of living together, whether you share a house or a community.

Looking forward, I am excited about my upcoming trip to Oregon. Oregon, you ask? Yes, to attend the “New Tribe Training” being held May 19 – 22 in Ashland. If you’re not aware, there is a group of people who have created a supportive network of people, who intentionally have come together as a “tribe.”  As they put it,

“Our “new tribe” model is different from the usual “intentional community” as we live in our own homes and not on shared land. “Bicycle distance” is our metaphor for living close enough to meet face-to-face with weekly consistency.”

Why am I attending? I have always been looking for connections with others in my community related work and the groups I have been a part of. This idea of Tribe and how to form it and be a part of it called to me from an article in Communities Magazine. The article describes their history, their process, what worked and what did not in forming their tribe.  Click here to read the article.

What do I hope to gain?  My hope is to find others who really know me and I know them, spend time together, and choose to be in each others life on purpose, forever. That is what I want. I read Bill and Zoe’s book, titled appropriately, “We Need Each Other: Building Gift Community and knew this Tribe Training was my next step. So I am going to the experts.

So, you can see, the “Silence was not about the absence of something, but the presence of everything.” During this silence we’ve been busy and we can’t wait to fill you in on all the details in the coming months.

Helpful hint: If you’re getting this post by email and have a comment to share, please click here and reply at the bottom of the blog post so that way, your comments can be shared with everyone!

Marianne Kilkenny

Community vs. Place: Why It Matters

Let’s take a closer look at aging in community and what makes it a different, and in many cases preferred, from aging in place.

Elderspirit 2007

In Spring of 2015 I opened my mailbox to find the newest edition of Communities Magazine. In it was a fantastic article by Margaret Critchlow called “Senior Cohousing in Canada: How Baby Boomers Can Build Social Portfolios for Aging Well.” Since this is right in my own wheelhouse I quickly devoured the article.

[Read more…]

Return to Elderspirit 2015

Elderspirit is one of the earliest Senior Cohousing communities in the country. It is internationally known and respected. My own journey would not be the same if it weren’t for the model that Elderspirit has provided for me and for this movement.

I recently had the wonderful experience of visiting Elderspirit with two friends from my community. My last visit was in 2007 so I was really looking forward to observing the changes and of course, looking forward to visiting with its Founder, Dene Petersen. I wrote about looking forward to my visit and looking back in a recent post here, if you want to see more.

When we arrived at the Elderspirit site we were able to witness the growth of landscape, the community, and its population — all changes from the last visit in 2007. It is both comforting and inspiring to see the seeds of this garden grown into colorful blooms, both literally and metaphorically.

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Experiencing Elderspirit

My upcoming road trip with friends up to Abingdon, VA to visit Elderspirit inspired me to reminisce about my relationship and respect for what has been accomplished in that small town along the Virginia Creeper Trail.

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Marianne inspired at Elderspirit 2007

The inspiration behind Elderspirit spoke to me very early in my quest for my community.

The attraction of Elderspirit for me came from its Founder, Dene (Geraldine) Peterson. She often said the one of the goals for those in the community was to live there “to a good death” like her family members did. No nursing home but in the caring arms of your “family.” But for me and many like me, family is chosen and deliberate. This is what I mean by building community.

[Read more…]

Love in Community Living: Cohousing with a Spouse

Shades Warrior Suite 7542

Image by U.S. Army via Flickr

There is a reason this community is called Women FOR Living in Community rather than just Women Living in Community. When I began this journey I knew it wasn’t for women only but that women were the glue that could hold these community relationships together.

A young friend recently shared with me that her aging parents are moving out of their colonial style home. With joint and vision problems they are no longer able to navigate the staircase with confidence. Their home, the one where they raised 3 children, has multiple bedrooms and bathrooms and could be a perfect home for community living. Imagine, instead of selling the home, if they repurposed it and invited others to share the space with them. How could this change the game for many seniors who would prefer to age in their own homes?

I encourage you to continue reading my thoughts about community living below.

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Community Spotlight: My House Our House

Photo from My House Our House

Photo from My House Our House

Community living can take on many forms. Today I wanted to share with you the story of Shadowlawn, the home of Jean McQuillin, Karen Bush, and Louise Machinist; three women who created a cooperative household to reduce expenses and live well for much less money than it takes to run a traditional home. They are housemates, friends, and co-authors and three individuals who chose to live together.

In the summer of 2013, their book came out to share their story with others.

In 2004, we were each happily living independently in Pittsburgh. While planning for a distant retirement, we realized how fantastic it could be to live together. We found ourselves asking, “Why not now?”

I encourage you to continue reading about My House Our House below.

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Men Living in Community: A Conversation with Dr. Joe Cole

This week I had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Joe Cole. To get to know him a little more, here is the bio he shared with me.

Joe Cole is a philosopher, writer, and facilitator who loves growing sweet potatoes.  He lives in Carrboro, NC and was one of the original residents of Pacifica Cohousing Community, where he was a Lead Facilitator for several years, crafting policies to improve decision-making and develop a stronger culture of consensus.  Joe works as a facilitator, consultant, and trainer with non-profit organizations, consensus-based groups, and intentional communities.  He is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Guilford College, where he teaches courses on Just War Theory and Environmental Ethics.

We focus a lot about women living in community, but I wanted to get the perspective of a man who has not only experienced community living but who also advocates for it. Here is what Joe had to say.

Tell me about your community living situation?

I lived in a cohousing community for 6 years, and was involved in the planning of the community three years before that.  I am currently living in a more conventional neighborhood.

What led you to want to live in community?

I was attracted to the values of community and sustainability.  I wanted to experience living together cooperatively and having shared resources.  And there were sustainable elements of the homes and the community that were appealing.  Overall I feel that building community and cooperative institutions is an important way to create alternatives to the greed and individualism that dominates our culture.

What do you like most about it?

I enjoyed the sharing of resources and working together with neighbors to manage our land and community.  It was a great learning experience for me to work together cooperatively.  I had the ideals of community and cooperation, but I didn’t really have the skills and awareness of what it takes to live in community before moving in.  The experience and challenges of living there inspired me to take a two year facilitation training course, and I continue to learn and practice facilitation and cooperative skills in all aspects of my life–family, work, and community.

Would you recommend it to other men?

Absolutely.  I believe that living in community is a great challenge and a great joy.  It is an opportunity for growth and transformation.  And it offers a sense of meaning and accomplishment to contribute to communities and institutions that are reaching for something deeper than mainstream consumer culture offers.

We would love to hear from other men who have had experience living in community or who want to know more. Please let us know here or in a conversation at our Facebook page!

Rent or Buy: The Smart Science of Pooling Resources

“Been thinking, if we pooled our financial resources, we could move here, live here year-round.” Hannah held her breath and waited for their reactions.

I’ve been thinking the much the same.” Amelia leaned forward in chair. Aghast, Grace looked at each of her friends in turn. “What is next? I can’t handle any more changes.”

Hannah turned to her. “Let me ask you, Grace, what does Olive Pruitt do for us that we can’t do for ourselves, and for each other? We can even dial 911, imagine that.”

“By pooling our finances, we could live nicely here.”

“Here we could share food, electric, gas repairs, lawn, maintenance, things like that.”

Springing from her chair, Grace flung her arms into the air. “I barely adjust to one thing and you two want to go even farther. There is too much for me. Too many changes!”

“You are tougher, more adaptable than you think,” Hannah retorted. “Things are different now; you won your own life. Time you initiated change.”

“What do you really want, Grace? What is right for you? The three of us sharing a home, helping one another seems very right to me.”

Grace admitted that she subconsciously had been thinking about this idea too.

Amelia hugged Grace, and uncharacteristically Hannah reached out her arms to hug both Amelia and Grace. They no longer felt like three women of a certain age concerned with aching hip, tenuous heart, or a fear of being alone. They were pioneers, driven by hopes and dreams; they were visionaries with sweeping goals.”

Excerpt from “Ladies of Covington Send Their Love” by Joan Medlicott

We all know that sharing a living space can save us money, so why don’t more people do it? American culture often encourages college age students to share housing to pool resources and save money, so it makes sense that the concept can be applied throughout our lives. Boomer women have a chance to blaze a new trail and create communities of women living together. So let’s look at what women can accomplish by pooling their resources.

Click below to read more.

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Transforming Existing Neighborhoods – Part Two

This home was collectively purchased and turned into the Common House for N Street neighborhood in Davis, CA.

In last week’s blog, I wrote about bringing more community to your existing neighborhood. This week, let’s discuss what it will take to make this happen. If this is the path you’re considering, here are several important characteristics you’ll need – starting with patience. To be successful, you’ll be speaking with the households on your block and the surrounding blocks to determine if they wish to participate. Be prepared for this process to take time and lots of it. You’re introducing a new idea and people need time to digest something new and make the time in their already busy lives.

Leadership is another key trait. Transforming a neighborhood needs a champion, someone to keep everyone and everything moving forward. If you’re that leader, consider finding a co-leader as soon as possible. You will need to coordinate ongoing events, including planning and implementing social and educational activities. A political effort may also be needed if a  zoning change is involved or to create an HOA, if one doesn’t already exist.

Vision is a third necessary characteristic to see the blueprint of what’s possible and the importance of increased community on your block. Add to  vision, strong communication skills as you’ll be sharing your idea to a diverse group of people understand your vision, including existing residents, current landlords, city officials, potential future residents and design professionals. Communication tools may include your creating a neighborhood newsletter, a community bulletin board,  email list or distributing a flyer about upcoming events to people’s homes.

Tenacity is the final trait required. Some people will find the idea exciting. Others will be opposed. It will require ongoing effort over time to transform your existing neighborhood into group of households that is aligned with a community version.

“Transforming something that is already there involves overcoming the inertia of what is for the benefits of what could be,” said Zev Paiss, sustainability educator and author of From Here To There: A Positive Story of America’s Future.

Models to reference include “retrofit cohousing” where existing cohousing neighborhoods have been turned into supportive communities. In this model, residents start with a few existing homes on a block and adapt the houses, alleys, backyards and courtyards to make them more pedestrian-friendly and community-oriented.

One example is N Street Cohousing in Davis, California, a 19-household neighborhood that started forming in 1991. This community was created by future residents buying up houses in the neighborhood and then taking down the side and backyard fences between the homes. Another example is Temescal Creek Cohousing in Oakland, California, which took only three months to get started.

Retrofitting an existing neighborhood has the advantage of adapting existing structures and not needing to build new construction. It offers innovative opportunities, such as outreach to your friends and family members when homes in the neighborhood go on the market. Another option if for neighbors to buy a home together and convert it into a shared space for meals, meetings and guest bedrooms for out-of-town guests.

The largest disadvantage of transforming your existing neighborhood is the resistance you may meet from current homeowners on your block. However, it may only take five to six households who get behind your idea to make a difference in the amount of community you and others will enjoy.
If you’re interested in this neighborhood process and other ways of creating community in your housing arrangement, please contact me.

Women For Living in Community