Help at Home Communities for Aging Alone

 

Aging in place is most desirable by all, but receiving help at home can eat up our resources. In my latest Facebook Live, I discuss the different and more affordable strategies for senior living and getting help at home.

This Live was prompted from a listener's comment on another topic I addressed; senior housing and community living:

"Has anyone considered living in a "senior prepared" tiny or micro home or community? Some of them are beautiful, spacious in feeling and affordable. The states where most of these communities are cropping up right now because of easier regulations are Oregon, Washington, Texas, Colorado and Florida. There are some others cropping up on individual's properties that is community-based in other states. I for one am convinced that is the way I want to go in terms of affordable housing for my later years. There are also some RV parks that are now renting out land/space for tiny homes.”

Such communities are now built by churches, and some by private individuals. The obstacles preventing these kinds of communities are the City and State Zoning Regulations. 

"As a retired Land Use Planner, I can outline some of the issues: For States and communities to participate, they must have appropriate land designated (usually in a 'General Plan') for single or low density multi-family housing and zoning codes that provide the standards for building "tiny houses? Consider these concerns: Is the land connected to a sewer main or will it have a sewage collection and treatment facility? Does the land have the ability to connect to electricity? Gas? Water? Transit? Road system? Are there adequate Building Codes to ensure that any structure built meets the minimum requirements for fire safety, structural integrity, earthquake safety, insulation, connection to utilities, etc. Will the unit be affordable enough for folks living in the community? Will there be financing? Who maintains the property? There is much more, but this gives you an idea of what a government agency might think about and the approach that must be taken." Elder Orphan Facebook Group Member

Micro communities that may work best 

4 couples living together in a unit with shared amenities...

The idea of communal living may or may not be appealing to you. But as one ages and has trouble with upkeep of their home, then the lifestyle may become attractive. Members of the Elder Orphan Facebook group consistently discuss the issues around affordable living situations.

If individuals were to share a living community, then 4 units seems like the optimal number, given that 4 to 8 individuals are manageable. Plus, that number would feel more like a family and not an institution.

For seniors aging alone, most of us prefer our privacy and then to share the living and dining areas. However, there are times, the solo ager may want to cook and dine in one's space.

One of the most significant factor for those aging alone is to have easy access to other people. And communities like tiny house villages or micro communities may be the answer, since both satisfies the yearning for intimacy and friendship.  And since we're living longer, sharing a community will give us access to other people for shopping, help each other out with basic tasks, transportation, and other activities of daily living. 

An Idea from Co-housing Communities

Recently, I visited a co-housing community where they built a separate unit for a caregiver. The co-housing residents paid for the unit and supply the quarters to a person who will oversee their care. The residents give the caretaker free monthly rent and a small stipend. Caution: Make sure residents have  varying degrees of ages and (mostly) good health. 

Consider these challenges 

Select the right people to share your life with

Stephan Johnston, founder, Aging2.0, 4sum Micro Communities, says, "Picking a wife or husband is hard, picking another 6 people to share your life with sounds nearly impossible."

True, but if one accomplishes that impossible task, think of all the benefits you’ll receive:

  • Social connections and bonds
  • Help at home
  • Ready made-advisors to help with medical discussions

The few the informal services. Each resident will be highly motivated to make the lifestyle work. It's easier to pick your community mates than your own family. 

My colleague, Diana Deaton, Aging2.0 Austin, just moved in with a long-time friend and they have their issues, not anything alarming, however, Diana reminds us, "if thinking about sharing a home with a friend, have several conversations. It's not like you're visiting for a week or two and likely, you'll run up against issues."

The ones she mentioned are:

  • Varying degrees of housekeeping
  • Cooking different foods
  • House temperatures
  • Keeping the lights on 
  • TV noise levels

These are a few Diana mentioned and ones that you can easily work around but keep in mind the older we are, the stronger mindset we have around living concerns. 

If successful, it could be the answer for millions of folks like me - aging alone with very few people to rely on. Tech developers could create apps like that of Silvernest.com which matches roommates and locations.  

Ownership

In Johnston's article, he mentions, 3 types of ownership models:

  • First, outright ownership of the units among the 4 couples
  • Second, time-share concepts, that exist in many senior care facilities today, which allow people to own units of the overall facility, while not owning a particular apartment. That would make it easier to move around.
  • And third would be a simple rental model.

When considering a micro community

Start visiting existing properties right now long before you decide to downsize and make a move. You could volunteer at one to observe the interaction - do your homework before going into any new set up, and talk to residents and people who have walked this path. 

Other things to consider:  health, finances, and personality. 

"I was not available to listen to this Live, and appreciate watching after the fact. I have actually lived in a community as you described...7 people in 5 households, two of them couples and a wide range of ages...in small older homes surrounding a large garden. My main suggestion is to start this process sooner rather than later, while you are still physically able to go through the moving process, and more adaptable to change and adjusting to others. It is also hard to find an independent community such as this once you have frailties and require help from others." Member, Elder Orphan Facebook Group

For me, kicking the isolation risk is always the best choice and so is making social connections. 

No place is perfect. We just have to pick what’s most important for us and go with that. 

Resources for You 

There are a lot of tiny house groups to watch for free on YouTube. The other concept that seems like it is related is pocket neighborhoods. Article from AARP with some interesting information. Member, Elder Orphan Facebook Group

There is a Micro Community Concepts FB page, which you could join for info and discussion. And I found this web page http://www.micro-communities.com/. Member of the group

 If you have a Netflix subscription, they’ve published a new show on its streaming service about tiny houses. “Tiny House Nation” follows renovation experts John Weisbarth and Zack Giffin across America. 

What about you, do you now live in a community or share a house? Please let me know.

Check out my downloadable, The Basics of Aging in Place Kit. It's loaded with tips, how-to's, and resources!

 

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