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.

On the surface, aging in place looks like a pleasant picture. Older adults live in their own homes and maintain independence. But in reality it can become a big fear. Days and nights are plagued with thoughts of accidental falls and what will happen one day when they can no longer take care of themselves.

But what are we really looking for? The answer is simple: connection.

Did you know that isolation can be as deadly as smoking?

In Critchlow’s article she explores some of the questions about aging in place. She dissects the ideas of retrofitting homes and affordability as well as maintenance, taxes, and bringing in outside help. With community, these are accounted for and built into the experience. But not only are the practical concepts important but so is the need to avoid social isolation.

Baby boomers specifically held strong values about cooperation and sustainability when we were younger. Why are we abandoning those as we age?

As the article points out senior cohousing facilitate socially, financially, and environmentally sustainable communities. Members provide “co-care” which encourages overall wellbeing while aging in place.

Co-care should be a crucial part of our lives. While the idea has been around for centuries it is less of an established routine than just a concept no more defined than “being a good neighbor.” Independence doesn’t have to be lost, but we do need to recognize that we are interdependent as well. Cohousing and other forms of community can facilitate that.

For more detailed information about how aging in place and aging in community work for older adults, check out the Harvard study on the housing crisis facing seniors today.

I propose that rather than waiting for someone to take charge and make improvements that we start the work ourselves. Who’s ready? Who’s with me?

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  1. joan cutler says

    I would like to know the names of such communities. How can they be researched without further information? Joan

    • That’s a great question. If you look at the top of the page on our website you’ll see a tab for Resources. Click there and there will be an icon called Communities. Click that and you can read about several that we’ve had a chance to showcase. Thanks!

  2. Marianne, very useful post and a solid breakdown of the key elements. I have always said “aging in place” is not about independence, but rather about inter-dependence. It’s a team sport.

    My elderly aunt and uncle are aging in place, they are very private people and “aging in community” would not be their first choice. They prefer it that way. I know there are others out there just like them.

    Also, for many people I know who live in age-friendly communities (contrived or NORCS) they have aging in place while aging in community.

    Good work here, Patrick

  3. Joan Scott says

    While there are a few communities here in the Boulder, Colorado, area most are not what would be called affordable. Is there anything coming up out West that would be affordable? Our real estate is quite pricey.

    • Marianne Kilkenny says

      The term affordable can be dicey to define. That is why doing something where you are makes sense as you know the area rather than moving. Out West is a big territory. I suggest doing your own work and forming your own, and start small.

  4. I love the idea of aging in community and my family is scattered making it impossible to live in community with all of them being scattered. I envision living in a community of like-minded souls in terms of values. I just don’t know where, so this is what I’m presently researching.

    Your articles and information are wonderful and I appreciate them.
    Thank you!

Women For Living in Community