The need for cohousing
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 77 million boomers in the U.S., and by 2030, this demographic (born between 1946 and 1964) will represent an estimated 20% of the population. This means more than 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 19 years.
77 million by 2030
20% of the population
65 every day
A MAJOR DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFT
Preparing for this demographic shift offers both challenges and opportunities. Although aging adults have needs, they also have a wealth of resources, skills, and experiences they can contribute to society. As the number of older people swells, it is critical that policy makers, non-profit and for-profit sectors, and industry leaders adequately prepare for this unprecedented phenomenon.
Seniors Lacking Housing Stock
Housing is one sector that needs to be addressed. At this time, the housing stock for age-friendly and accessible housing is enough for only 3% of the current population.
Too often older adults continue to live in the same oversized, energy-inefficient house where they raised a family, and may continue to drive longer than is safe in order to do errands and make connections with friends.
Many older adults are looking for a housing option that provides a community in which they can participate based on their own choices, resident management, and an environment that will help them feel a sense of belonging in social relationships (“Elder Cohousing”, 2005; Sugihara & Evans, 2000). Clearly housing solutions need to be developed to ensure the elderly in our society have options available where they can thrive in safe and social environments.
Isolation is dangerous and unhealthy
As individuals age, their health often deteriorates unnecessarily due to loneliness and depression. According to Harper’s Magazine, suicide has increased by over 50% for adults over 50 in the last ten years. Estranged folks, in particular, have less motivation to get up and get going.
In the 1995 Chicago heat wave, three quarters of the heat related deaths occurred among residents older than 65 years of age (Klinenberg, 2002).
Many studies conclusively show that there are health consequences to isolation. Poor social connections, infrequent participation in social activities, and social disengagement predict the risk of cognitive decline in elderly individuals. (Zunzunegui et al., 2002).
Meanwhile, older adults who participate in community groups such as clubs, churches, and support groups experience a 30% lower risk for death than those living alone.
Isolation is expensive and inefficient
As the number of seniors expands and government budgets decrease, services for older people will continually be cut. It will be increasingly difficult for public and community agencies to provide services such as Meals on Wheels, van rides, etc. to older residents.
First responders are hard hit by the growing population of older Americans. For example, one fire chief said that more than half the calls they receive are to simply pick up an elderly person and put them back in their chair or bed.
Cohousing improves health outcomes
Senior cohousing has proven to be an innovative and cost effective model that illustrates how living in a highly functional community improves health, reduces the need for senior services, enhances individual contributions on a larger scale, and makes life more affordable and fun. The efficiency of smaller homes also protects the environment.
Cohousing seniors are healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally. They require fewer medical and social services. They are consciously aware of their environmental foot print and strive to live sustainably light on the earth.
Studies of cohousing residents show that because of the support they receive during precipitating events such as surgery, heart attacks, etc., they are able to recover more quickly and age in place for a much longer time than those who live alone or have less community support.