No matter how rich life is in youth and middle age, the elder years can bring on increasing isolation and loneliness as social connections lessen, especially if friends and family members move away.
Senior cohousing fills a niche for this demographic — the healthy, educated and proactive adults who want to live in a social and environmentally vibrant community. These seniors are already wanting to ward off the aging process, so they are unlikely to want to live in assisted housing. Senior cohousing revolves around custom-built neighborhoods organized by the seniors themselves in order to fit in with their real needs, wants, and aspirations for health, longevity, and quality of life.
Senior Cohousing is a comprehensive guide to joining or creating a cohousing project, written by the U.S. leader in the field. The author deals with all the psychological and logistical aspects of senior cohousing and addresses common concerns, fears, and misunderstandings. He emphasizes the many positive benefits of cohousing, including:
- Better physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health
- Friendships and accessible social contact
- Safety and security
- Shared resources.
Successful aging requires control of one’s life, and this generation of seniors — the baby boomers — will find this book holds a compelling vision for their future.
“I’ve been rich and Iâ€™ve been poor — and believe me, rich is better.”
— Sophie Tucker
Wealth. Riches.Â Affluence. Capital. Prosperity. Net Worth.Â Security is one of the tent-poles of well-being. Everybody wants it, everybody needs it but what is it, exactly?
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The easy thing is to link wealth with money. After all, who could be more secure than a billionaire?Â AÂ billionaire who was a successful movie producer, aviator and engineer, founder of a medical research institute, airline mogul and winner of the Congressional Gold Medal would be especially secure in his old age— don’t you think?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Howard Hughes died a recluse.Â A drug addict, hair, beard, fingernails, toenails all grown to grotesque length, despite the fact that he always kept a barber on call. He was estranged from his family,Â surrounded by strangers. One of the richest people in the world on the day of his death, the autopsy recorded evidence of severe malnutritionÂ (he weighed only 90 pounds) and X-raysÂ revealed broken hypodermic needles still embedded in his arms.
Was Howard Hughes rich?
Then there is that nice girl from Albania who moved to India and settled into the life of a school teacher outside of Calcutta. There she experienced what she would later refer to as “the call within a call.”Â “I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. It was an order. To fail would have been to break the faith.”Â She began this missionary work in 1948,Â venturing out into the slums,Â tending to the needs of the destitute and starving. Despite expressions of support from the Indian government, she had no income and had to resort to begging for food and supplies. Her congregation, the Missions of Charity, received official sanction from the Vatican in 1950.Â Along the way, Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.Â At the time of her death, the Missionaries of Charity had over 4,000 sisters, an associated brotherhood of 300 members, and over 100,000Â layÂ volunteers, operating 610 missions in 123 countries.
Was Mother Teresa poor?
It turns out that real wealth is derived from a blend of financial and social capital. Social capital?Â While it is vital to our everyday lives (and happiness), this concept remains something of a mystery to most Americans.Â Financial capital is something we can understand easily because it is value reduced to numbers. Television networks, newspaper, authors, advisors and wealth gurus are all ready and eager to help us “put our financial house in order.” We can not say the same for social capital which is, simply, “the net value of all of the voluntary reciprocal personal relationships that are part of our everyday lives.” In other words, it pays to have and to be— a darn good neighbor. Since few of us are likely to follow in the footsteps of either Howard Hughes or Mother Teresa, it makes sense to think about a balanced approach to wealth that provides us with both the financial and social capital we need if we are to find a “life worth living.”
This is where Senior Co-Housing comes in to play.Â When you think about it,Â co-housing can be understood as a wealth creation strategy that allows people to create [strike “create”Â substituteÂ “develop”] affordable housing which is further enriched with an abundance of social capital. When people come together with the intention of being darn good neighbors and with the expectation of having darn good neighbors, their lives are made better in a myriad of ways that financial capital has a hard time duplicating. Unlike communes, in which people merge their personal finances with the economy of their community, co-housing strikes a balance that honors privacy and autonomy even as it encourages, relationship-building and shared governance.Â Co-housing is, in my mind, the most approachable, most replicable strategy for the creation of intentional communities available to us today.Â
Thanks to Chuck Durrett, co-housing has grown from a purely European phenomenon (it got its start in Denmark) to an increasingly viable option for elders in America.Â The future, I believe, is better and brighter than ever.Â My optimism is based, in part, on the success this book has already achieved. It is a valuable tool that will help the tens of thousands of people, who are looking for another way to live, find what they are looking for.Â There is a new old age out there, waiting to be discovered. It is an elderhood rich in developmental potential and it will lead us to new ways of understanding our communities, our families and ourselves.Â Â
I remember getting my copy of the first edition of this book, I seized upon it and devoured its message hungrily. Its message was suited perfectly to its time. The second edition is even better and I am sure that it will help even more people understand what senior co-housing is and how it works.Â
So what are you waiting for? Skip this rest of this preface, dive into the book and be enriched by the insights and the wisdom you will find there.
I’m not kidding. Go. Now. Your future isÂ waiting for you.Â
-William H. Thomas, M.D.
About the Author
Charles Durrett is a principal at McCamant & Durrett in Nevada City, CA, a firm that specializes in affordable cohousing. He co-authored the groundbreaking Cohousing A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves with his wife and business partner, Kathryn McCamant. He also authored The Senior Cohousing Handbook: A Community Approach to Independent Living.