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Communities for Life

What would your ideal home be like? What kind of community would you like to live in? If you’re someone considering retirement or you’re already retired, would your ideal home and community be different from where you are now? How about if you were living with a disability or chronic illness? There are some well-known types of accommodation such as retirement and continuing care communities, but I’m excited to discover that people have been developing new options, with an emphasis on community, neighbors helping each other, and aging in place.

In her book, With a Little Help from Our Friends: Creating Community as We Grow Older, journalist Beth Baker (www.bethbaker.net), describes some of these options. She devotes a chapter to each one, introducing us to the people who dreamed of the concept and the people who live there. I’ve listed some brief descriptions at the bottom of this post, but her stories bring these communities to life.

If you’re looking for a guide with ideas for what your future could look like, I thoroughly recommend this book. The last part of the book, “Getting From Here to There”, discusses issues such as designing homes that can accommodate people through the various stages of life and abilities, how we pay for these lifestyles and housing options when we’re no longer working, who will help us when we develop health care issues, assistive robots (yes, really!!) and other technology, and even provides questions to help you choose which model is best for you. There are also a few options for when more care is needed, but the author also covers these topics in another book, Old Age in a New Age: The Promise of Transformative Nursing Homes which I plan to review in another post.

Patients are people, too!
Doesn’t it make sense to research our options before we may need to change our lifestyle? By being actively involved in a community where people care for each other, and waking up each morning feeling that we have a purpose to our lives, we stay active and enjoy life.

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The Village

This appears to be a rapidly growing movement of neighbors organizing themselves to help each other with transportation, meals, home maintenance and repairs, and much more, allowing people to age in place and interact with others of all ages. Members often pay an annual fee to help with the organizing costs although there are some all-volunteer villages.

You’ll find more information about this concept on the Village to Village Network website at http://vtvnetwork.org/


Cohousing communities are designed from the ground up by the residents who live there, and are as individual as the groups that design them (e.g. seniors only, multigenerational, eco-friendly, shared values). Their design focus is on neighborhood with common areas used daily for activities open to all residents, and there’s a real sense of community . Cohousing communities are managed by the residents and decisions are made as a group with no one person providing leadership.

To learn more, go to the Cohousing Association of the United States website: http://www.cohousing.org/


Cooperatives come in all shapes and sizes: high-rise apartment buildings, mobile homes, single family houses; residents can be 55 and over or multi-generational; locations can be found in urban or rural areas. What defines a cooperative is that each member has a share, so it is a member owned and run, not-for-profit community.

NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities)

NORCs occur with the realization that there are a large number of older adults in a community who want to remain in their homes but require assistance. They range from apartment buildings to neighborhoods to towns and are by nature multi-generational. Unlike the other options above, membership is not required, although some housing cooperatives can include NORCs.

Check out NORC Blueprint at http://www.norcblueprint.org/ and NORC Aging in Place Initiative at http://www.norcs.org/index.aspx for more information about NORCs.

Community Without Walls

There is only one Community Without Walls at this time and it’s in Princeton, NJ: http://cwwprinceton.org/. It’s a supportive community divided into “houses” or chapters, with an emphasis on friendship rather than as an organization that provides services. New houses form as more people become interested and want to join, rather than form to join a particular neighborhood.

Generations of Hope

This is another type of multigenerational community but what makes this different is that not only do the older members of the community receive assistance, but they also volunteer their time to support the younger members. The model for the communities currently in place are for a combination of foster families and older adults supporting each other, but there are efforts to create communities to support other vulnerable populations such as veterans, and adults with developmental disabilities, or mental or physical chronic conditions (see http://ghdc.generationsofhope.org/initiatives-development/#jumpdown).

There’s more information at the Generations of Hope website: http://www.generationsofhope.org/

Affinity Groups or Niche Community

These communities are comprised of people with a common interest, for example the arts, faith/spirituality, race, sexual orientation, career hobbies and lifestyles.


There are a couple of chapters that discuss options for friends or multiple generations of a family to share a home.

Do you know of any other kinds of communities like these? I would love to hear about them!

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