An Introduction: Multifamily—Meet Senior Villages and Cohousing

Senior programs are taking a hit: budget cuts eliminated almost ¼ of the funding going to the Community Development Block Grants program, which funds many senior programs. But seniors, whose population will double from 39 million to 79 million in the next 4 decades, are no dummies. They’re changing with the times, of course, like the crafty baby boomer grandparents they are, and they’re making their OWN damn programs.

From what I’ve read, these senior villages sound about a million times better than the cookie-cutter senior homes that some refer to as a way to “warehouse the old.” Multifamily should study up on what it is about senior villages that make them appealing. After all, if they’ve been designed by the very people happy to live in them or participate in them, that’s a pretty good vote of confidence, right?

Maybe I should back up and describe what, exactly, a senior village is.

According to an article on on the topic, senior villages are where, for an annual membership fee, members stay in their own homes but have social events, meet-ups, discussion groups, fitness classes, and field trips planned out for them. Plus, services are consolidated; if a senior villager needs anything from help getting to the grocery store to a tall someone to come over and change a light-bulb, there’s just one number they call.

(If you’re starting to realize that multifamily communities that offer these kinds of services to customers could be seen by prospective renters in the 60-and-up-set as the best thing since sliced bread, you’re probably right.)

One point about senior villages is that they don’t necessarily have to be geographically in the same area. But they can be.

With cohousing, a practice where a cluster of individually owned homes are centered around common areas, residents decide together what the area’s activities and rules will be. Everyone lives in his or her own house, but there are common areas with full kitchens and gathering areas, plus regular group meals.

(Does this sound like a college dorm, except without the random roommates, bunk beds, and shared showers to anyone else?)

Senior cohousing can help elders, especially those living on their own, experience a rich and affordable social life while retaining independence. Multifamily might take note of senior cohousing resources to create communities in the future that, either through creating cohousing spaces or though delivering high-caliber customer service options of a “village”, cater to the bright golden years that many senior citizens are beginning to demand. Giving community members the option to access additional services is one way multifamily communities can get an edge and set themselves apart against competitors. In addition, elder renters will likely be happier to settle down in a community where they know they’ll be provided for.

In case you hadn’t guessed where I was going with this: renters who stay put are your favorite kind, right?

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