2019 Aging in Community Update: 

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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Go Local for Community Resources

Over the years I’ve met many people in the community movement who have been my inspiration and education.  I’ve been fortunate to have a few right in my own backyard (so to speak).  Here are profiles of 3 such people who have been instrumental in my quest for Community:

LEADER IN ECOVILLAGES AND INTENTIONAL COMMUNITIES

dianeleafchristianDiana Leafe Christian breathes, writes and lives about community, specifically, Ecovillages and Intentional Communities.  “Ecovillages are urban or rural communities of people who strive to integrate a supportive social environment with a low-impact way of life.” (Source).

She doesn’t just write about it, she lives in one in Black Mountain, NC called Earthaven (www.Earthaven.org).  This community was formed in 1995 and is now up to 55 full-time residents with diversity in age and background.

Living in an Ecovillage is not just about being sustainable but also how to get along and make decisions. Diana teaches workshops and writes about “Sociocracy,” a way of consensus building in community.  To get an idea of what it means, you can view a Youtube video here, “Diana Leafe Christian – Decision-making in communities + intro to Sociocracy 1“.

All of those seeking to learn about or who live in community have probably come across Communities Magazine. Diana was the editor from 1993 – 2007.  In addition to editing, Diana also published several books about Ecovillages and Intentional Communities.  Her books are considered the “bible” for community (click on titles to view on Amazon):

creatingCreating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities

Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community

What more can I say? How fortunate am I to have her this close?

 

LEADER IN DEVELOPING COMMUNITY TOOLS FOR COLLABORATION


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Zelle Nelson and Maureen McCarthy
are a dynamic couple I met over 1o years ago while on my search for alternatives to lawyers and litigation in community forming documents. They live in Western Carolina in the small town of  Flat Rock. They are the founders of The Blueprint of WE (initially known as the “State of Grace Document) that later became The Center for Collaborative Awareness. The Blueprint of WE is a collaboration tool that can be used by businesses, in family, in groups  and of course, in community. It starts with you and custom designs a collaboration process for building together and is a guide when conflicts arise. You might think of a relationship as you and another person but with the Blueprint of WE, it’s “You, Me and WE.” blueprint

I encourage anyone who wishes to have better collaboration and communication in any personal, community or business endeavor to explore this fabulous tool.

LEADER IN BEING PASSIONATE
gregg
Gregg Levoy  is an author who writes and speaks about passion and callings – what inspires you, what defeats you, what drives you. Gregg does not work directly in the Community movement but what he writes about is important to anyone interested in living a purposeful life with passion. I met Gregg at a workshop over 12 years ago in California and found out a few years ago that he lives in Asheville, NC!
His latest book, Vital Signs: The Nature and Nurture of Passion has made him a favorite at the conferences on aging due to the nature of the topic and his workshop leading skills. It examines the endless, yet endlessly fruitful, tug-of-war between passion and security in our lives, asking yourself questions like: How do you lose passion and how do you get it back? His other book, Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, explores how to cultivate passion as a mindset to add vitality to your relationships and work.
Love his website (http://www.gregglevoy.com/) which is full of great stuff.  One of my favorite things on his website is the music and movies he recommends. http://www.gregglevoy.com/vital-signs/music-movies.html but you can also see his workshop schedule. I encourage you to attend one.
As you can see, there are some dynamic  people here in western North Carolina and I only touched upon a few.  We also have great resources which I will write about in a future blog as part of my ongoing desire to serve. In the meantime, please share with me your resources or if you found any of these helpful or inspirational.
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A New Community Tribe: The First NotMom Summit

Months ago I was asked to participate in an event that would be the first of its kind. You never know what to expect in these situations but my participation made sense. This was the first ever conference for women without children. The idea was to bring together women who made the choice to not have children as well as those who did want kids but over time and circumstance find themselves without them.

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The first-ever NotMom Summit took place in Cleveland, Ohio on October 9th and 10th.

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Community or Place: A Look at Our Needs Vs. Our Wants

To build from my last post, which looked at the importance of connection as we age, I wanted to expand more on the key elements of successful “Aging in Place” and how the principles for building a community provide the alternative many are seeking.

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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.

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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.

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How We Live Now: A Review

I usually save my favorite books for the holidays but this one was published just this week and I like to keep readers up with the latest news. Even though there are a plethora of books on my shelf that I could recommend this is the one I think you should add first.

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Like many of you, my life is always on the go so I can’t always find time in my busy schedule to sit down and read an entire book. But if you don’t read anything else, this is the one to pick up from Amazon today.

Here are a few reasons.

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Tiny Homes and Community Living: A Recap

The country, and the world, is currently enamored with the idea of tiny houses. Just look at the popularity of DIY Network’s Tiny House Nation, which documents the building of a tiny house from concept to completion in just one 45 minute episode. Asheville company Wishbone Tiny Homes has even been featured on an episode.

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I have not been immune to this concept. I have written about tiny homes as an option for aging both in community and in place. Several times I asked a local tiny home dweller, Laura M. LaVoie, to share her insights and for other installments I explored the possibilities myself. Let’s take a look at the tiny house resources I’ve shared on this blog.

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Flexibility and Red Flags: Trust Your Intuition

“They are not rigid and set in their ways. While they know what they want and think positively about getting what they desire, they remain flexible to what the circumstances require of them. “

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In my book, Your Quest for Home, I discuss the characteristics of a successful leader (quote from page 120). Flexibility is one of those characteristics. I believe that it is a key to success and a part of my consulting as the Grand Nudge and trailblazer on Aging in Community

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Are You Ready to Make a Change? 5 Resources to Get You Started

You’re here because you want to make a change. You may be concerned about your options as you age or about having the right support network in place. It won’t be easy but the rewards are exponential. There is no time like the present to start shaping your future.

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Aging in Place or Age in Community? Semantics?

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On this site I often like to make distinctions between certain phrases that I think make a difference in our perception of these concepts. For instance, I really hate the word “Elderly” and I think for good reason. Why does it have to be an adverb? Let’s just stick with “Elder” as a noun or just “older adult”.

In any case, the particular phrasing that I want to talk about today is “Aging in Place” versus “Age in Community.”

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