Whether it is an empty nest, finding yourself single with a big house you can't support or just wanting to look for a new and better living arrangement, boomers are exploring their housing options.
Where do we go from here? What's next?
As we move up in age, many of us consider moving away from the long and dismal winters to a more user-friendly climate. Others want to stay in the area, but choose (or are forced) to downsize and trade in the larger house.
The option of shared living is gaining new popularity, especially among single boomers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 30 percent in this age group are single, whether through divorce, being widows or widowers or having never married.
As a youth, you may have had some experience with shared housing, either living with grandparents or other extended family. In college or while you had your first job, you may have lived with a roommate. If it worked well and you found compatible people, you may recall it was fun and definitely saved you money.
Perhaps you lived communally as a idealistic young adult, sharing the cooking and other household responsibilities. In the more structured communes, there may have also been pooling of income, cars, clothing and, yes, occasionally lovers. Ideally, it worked out well, but in reality, these communes often proved more problematic and were difficult to maintain.
Now, in these challenging economic times, the idea of living with others who are not your family or even close friends could be an attractive idea, both economically and socially.
As we look to the future, hoping to figure out what is the best way to live in this third, and perhaps, final chapter of our lives, "Living in Community" has become a goal for some. As we scale down our work life or become retirees, we can discover leaving the work world often carries with it another loss: no longer having the sense of "belonging" that having a work life can offer. Feeling too isolated, when there is no job to go to, can be a problem sometimes leading to depression.
A new concept and choice of how to improve one's quality of life is emerging. Co-housing, started in Denmark, is now a growing movement all over the world. Co-housing is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods.
Co-housing residents are consciously committed to living as a community. These intentional communities are physically designed as attached or single-family homes along one or more pedestrian streets or clustered around a courtyard. Although they range in size, the majority are set up for 20 to 40 households.
The carefully planned design, such as cars parked on the periphery of the property rather than attached to each home, and open porches in the front of each home, encourages casual social contact between neighbors as well as deliberate gatherings for weekly shared meals, celebrations, clubs, interest groups and business meetings.
Some formed communities are multi-generational and include children of all ages; others are restricted to residents age 55 and older. All require some agreement on which basic values are appreciated and practiced.
The common house is the social center of a community, with a large dining room and kitchen, lounge and, frequently, several guest rooms, as well as facilities for workshops, exercise and laundry. Individual dwellings therefore can be designed smaller in size and more cost-efficient because the common house provides the extra needed space.
The need for members to take care of their common property builds a sense of working together, trust and support. Because neighbors hold a commitment to a supportive relationship with one another, almost all co-housing communities use consensus as the basis for group decision-making. There are shared values and the commitment to work out whatever problems arise and find consensual solutions that satisfy all members.
For those who may be searching for creative solutions to housing and social needs, there is much to explore as we reach for quality living, hoping to find the next best place we truly can call "home."
• • •
Angelena Craig of Newburyport is the director of The New Aging Movement and a professional-level yoga instructor. Visit her website at www.thenewagingmovement.com or email email@example.com.