December 1, 2015 — We are very happy for the folks who find their perfect place to retire -it is wonderful that you can live your dream. But we know there are many others who haven’t found their Goldilocks place, yet anyway. For those who haven’t, perhaps your experience is something like… the right community is too old… HOA fees are too high or restrictive… they have amenities you don’t want… too many young people… or, it would be perfect, except it’s in the wrong place. But maybe the problem is that your community hasn’t been invented yet. Perhaps it is up to you to build it yourself.
Nextavenue.com had an interesting article, “Not Your Mother’s Retirement Home“, that discusses different groups of creative people who are banding together for retirements based on their shared creative interests. The first was a group of musicians, The Old Farts, who are looking for fellow future residents and gauge interest in the idea at their Rock Til You Drop website.
One thing this group discovered right off is that it is hard to get agreement on every detail – everybody has their own ideas! But they do share some of these goals:
– Find a property that is affordable
– Area with a low cost of living
– Close to an international airport (within 1 hour)
– Near a good hospital
– Cultural opportunities and a college campus nearby
– And, surprise, surprise for a group of rock musicians marijuana tolerant.
The group has discussed buying an RV park because of the tiny homes and the opportunity to have visitors stay in their RVs. The existing infrastructure of such a place would definitely be a plus. What would you guess are the top states the group is considering? Answer: North Carolina, Tennessee, California, Oregon and Arizona (we’re a little surprised they are not considering Washington or Colorado).
The Lousiville Artists Cohousing
The other creative group profiled in the article profiled was Louisville Artists Cohousing near Boulder, Colo. Together with eight other artists and musicians, Emilie Parker and her husband are hoping to acquire property where they can build 24 homes. A majority of the core group is over age 50.
The group’s dream is to have private households along with a large common area for dining and exercise, plus art-making spaces. Also on their wish list would be an additional 6,000-square-feet of studio space for exhibitions and classes.
Changing the Market
Lydia Manning, a gerontologist with Concordia University in Chicago, has been studying the founding members of Rock Til You Drop in her latest research project. In the Nextavenue.org article she had some observations about how folks like them are going to change the retirement market: “I do think these types of communities are going to be gaining in popularity. I think you’ll see a trend of people wanting to craft space, rather than just pick a place and go.”
If this sounds a lot like cohousing, that’s because it is
Cohousing is all about sharing housing and the living experience with other folks who have some of the same interests. These communities usually consist of separate residential units and many communal facilities for shared living. They are similar to but not exactly like cooperative communities. Common features include group meals and dining, meditation rooms, yoga or Zen, hiking or biking trails, and large shared living rooms. We have written about it in the past, notably in Cohousing Might Be Your Answer. The movement seems to be growing, although not every project gets off the ground. Here at Topretirements our Advanced Search tool finds 29 cohousing or cooperative communities in our database (not all might be active).
So should you start your own cohousing community?
Obviously this is not something for the faint of heart – starting any kind of project of this magnitude involves tremendous work, organization, patience, and resources. It could years to get off the ground – if ever. But to stimulate your thinking, here are some examples of the types of groups that might find a cohousing community attractive, along with some initial pros and cons.
Cohousing might work for groups like these
See our article, “Finding Your Niche Retirement Community” for more examples.
– Artists and musicians. These folks have a natural affiliation and a need for similar facilities. See the Burbank Artists Colony
– Yoga and exercise. Again, a shared interest and ability to share resources
– Church or religious groups. Ave Maria near Ft. Myers/Naples is an example of a place where Catholics can retire together.
– Professional or career commonality. One example is Nalcrest, a community near Lake Wales, Florida set up for retired letter carriers.
– Sports. Golf, boating, flying, and other activities all have communities with facilities where people can share these interests and common facilities (although few would technically be called co-housing because the housing is more separate). Spruce Creek Fly-in Community is one of almost 10 communities at Topretirements with a private air strip.
– Ethnicity. Shanti Niketan in Mount Dora, FL is meant for people who don’t want to return to India for their retirement.
– Relatives and friends. If you have relatives and friends you know you can live with, there are many advantages to finding a place where you can all live together. Perhaps a former B & B, mansion, nursing home, hotel, or small apartment building.
Cohousing has many big advantages:
– Economic. Many people sharing expenses solves a lot of problems. With tens of millions of Americans worried they won’t have enough money for a comfortable retirement, this might be an ideal solution
– More resources. Not many folks can afford their own art studio, kiln, exhibition space, church, etc. on their own. But they can if they pool their resources
– People you know. Retiring with people you know you can live with is often better than a “pig in the poke”
– Cooperation. Rather than having to go it alone into old age, you will have a built-in support group
– Shared interests.
And there are disadvantages
– Getting these projects off the ground is very difficult and costly
– Securing agreement on major decisions often runs against too many strong interests
– The legal issues of ownership and zoning can be difficult
– Everybody has to get along, or bad things can happen
If you haven’t found your perfect retirement community maybe it is because you are going to have to start one yourself. But if the concept interests you, and you have a core group that wants to pursue it, this could be the answer. Talk it up among yourselves – just maybe you could make it happen.
Comments? Do you think cohousing is for you? Do you know a group of people with enough common interests to start your own community – or join one that already exists? We look forward to your Comments in the section below.