Joint Living Communities for Seniors Are Flourishing

New initiatives are helping people age gracefully.



(Ground Picture /

One of the challenges of the modern world, given an aging population, is how to help people 60+-years-of-age, live independent and fulfilling lives.

The global population is undergoing a significant shift towards aging, states a report by the United Nations. Almost every country in the world is witnessing a rise in the number and proportion of older individuals within their population. This shift is causing changes in how families are structured and how different generations interact with each other.

As countries grapple with the challenges of caring for their seniors and making sure they have access to healthcare, pensions, and social support, there are some positive developments happening. Both the private and public sectors are teaming up to create cooperative housing plans that aim to reduce loneliness and isolation among the elderly.

As the UK Cohousing Network suggests, cohousing arrangements are intentional communities managed by their residents, combining self-contained homes with shared community spaces and facilities. They offer an excellent balance between privacy and highly sociable neighborhood life. One such cohousing cooperative is New Ground.

Life in a cooperative
The cohousing movement originated in Denmark in the 1960s and has since expanded throughout Scandinavia, Germany, the United States, and England. New Ground in North London is part of this flourishing movement.

When Jude Tisdall moved to New Ground, she believed she was a tolerant person. “I realized I had to relearn what tolerance really was,” she told Positive News. She compares communal living to the early stages of moving in with a partner, except in this case, she had to navigate relationships with 25 new partners. “Trying to negotiate that wasn’t always easy.”

While there weren't any major arguments, even friendly interactions could sometimes be challenging. However, loneliness was almost non-existent in this community. In the beginning, stopping for conversations with every neighbor encountered meant it took forever just to leave the building. Nowadays, a quick hello is enough.

Although they don't always see eye to eye, Tisdall acknowledges that each of the residents have strong, independent personalities. After all, they are a group of feisty women, and the community wouldn't have come together if they weren't, reports Positive News.

New Ground was established in 1998 when six women united with the goal of creating a co-housing community for older women. After years of effort, the community finally opened its doors in 2016, offering 25 apartments (including eight for social housing) along with shared spaces such as gardens, a guest flat for friends and relatives, and a common house where they can dine together, watch movies, and participate in various groups and classes. They also have teams responsible for finances and building maintenance, and they hold regular meetings to discuss community matters, according to their website.

Why choose cohousing?
As of 2018, the Cohousing Association of the United States reported the existence of 165 established communities across the nation, reports the organization Senior Living. However, it is worth noting that among these cohousing communities, only 13 are specifically designated as senior cohousing communities.

A senior cohousing community primarily caters to independent seniors who can actively participate in meeting the community's needs, continues Senior Living. While residents have their own private homes, they are also expected to contribute to the overall functioning of the neighborhood. This may involve tasks such as cooking meals on designated days, maintaining the landscaping, or organizing group outings.

It's important to note that seniors who are affected by dementia or have limited mobility may not be able to fulfill these contributions. Furthermore, senior cohousing communities are not specifically designed to provide round-the-clock monitoring or nursing care. While some communities may choose to include memory care or assisted living services for their residents, this would be an exception rather than the norm, according to Senior Living.

A blog on Boomers Hub suggests three reasons to choose a cohousing plan: downsizing, independence, and interaction.

When choosing a property, people often consider the needs of their growing family, opting for spacious houses. However, as their children grow up and move away, these large houses can become burdensome to maintain, reports Boomers Hub. Many seniors choose to downsize their living arrangements to something more manageable.

Some seniors are still independent and don't require assistance with their daily activities. Maintaining independence is crucial for residents, explains Boomers Hub, as it helps them preserve their sense of self-worth. In senior living communities, residents have the responsibility of looking out for one another and following established protocols in case of emergencies. To learn more about this independent living option, explore the Independent Living program.

Human beings have a natural need for communication and connection, continues Boomers Hub. However, as we age, it's common to withdraw and isolate ourselves from others. While it's not necessary to interact with fellow residents around the clock, it's important to have some level of communication with them, ensuring that they are aware of your safety and well-being.

The amazing benefits
Several years ago, Jude Tisdall of New Ground fell while rushing for the tube and ended up breaking her ankle and shoulder. Recounting the incident, she told Positive News, "I didn't cook for a month, there was always somebody who brought something for me to eat, or would knock to see if I wanted some company." She recognizes the support she received during that time and acknowledges that living alone like she did before would have been a nightmare, particularly for her daughter, as her daughter would have been the one burdened with responsibility for her wellbeing.

Residents of New Ground frequently engage with local politicians and participate in giving talks about co-housing and its advantages, especially for older individuals, writes Positive News. With the UK's aging population, New Ground serves as an example of how older people can maintain self-sufficiency. “It seems like a no-brainer that government and local councils take this model and think ‘this is what we should be doing’,” says Tisdall.

With the rising costs of senior housing and assisted living or retirement communities, older adults are increasingly exploring alternative options to age gracefully in their own homes, reports The Senior List. Elder co-housing, also known as aging in place or even aging with friends, might be just the solution they're seeking!

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