This post is part of an ongoing series on where to live as you age
In our ongoing exploration of retirement living options, we have stumbled upon an intriguing and rising trend in the United States: intergenerational cohousing communities. We were captivated by a compelling Facebook quote that spoke of love and belonging within a cross-generational community, prompting us to dive deeper into this progressive living concept.
Originating in Denmark in the 1950s, intergenerational cohousing communities are intentionally designed to mix older and younger age groups, creating a dynamic and diverse environment. Unlike sprawling suburban houses with high fences and high-maintenance lawns, these communities feature smaller, age-friendly dwellings nestled closely around shared green spaces, fostering opportunities for regular interaction and collaboration among residents. The driving force behind these communities is to create a strong sense of belonging, mutual support, and the exchange of knowledge, experiences, and diverse perspectives. These intentional communities stand in stark contrast to the fastest-growing retirement communities in the U.S., which tend to be less diverse, predominantly composed of individuals over 62 years old, financially secure, and often of the same race and political affiliations.
As huge numbers of baby boomers transition into retirement, the need for innovative solutions in retirement living becomes more critical. Intergenerational cohousing communities have emerged as a promising option, with new ones springing up, such as the Agrihood in Santa Clara, California. Moreover, the California State legislature has recognized the value of intergenerational housing and passed Senate Bill 591, which enables affordable housing developers to build intergenerational housing for the elderly and foster youth transitioning to adulthood by using tax credits for financing. The bill’s sponsor, California State Senator Josh Becker says, “I’m a huge fan. Intergenerational living spaces create a dynamic and supportive community that traditional forms of age-restricted housing cannot match. All the research shows it’s better for everyone: both old and young.”
The benefits of intergenerational cohousing communities are remarkable:
1. Living in a Diverse Environment: Seniors do not want to be with just seniors. Instead, they desire to be part of a greater community that spans generations. Intergenerational cohousing offers an enriching opportunity to interact with individuals of all ages, from young children to working adults and fellow retirees, creating a thriving living environment.
2. Building Meaningful Relationships: As people age, their social circles often shrink. Embracing intergenerational cohousing allows everyone to expand their social network and forge meaningful relationships. Melissa McKenna, chair of the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority, expresses that older adults crave connectivity, mobility, diversity, and engagement—qualities uniquely offered in intergenerational communities.
3. Increasing Social Engagement: Everyone benefits from more social interaction. Cross-generational housing enhances social engagement, effectively reducing social isolation and loneliness across all populations, especially among older adults. Shared common buildings, such as kitchens, gardens, libraries, playgrounds, and meeting rooms, become nurturing grounds for residents to interact, bond, and foster a strong sense of community.
4. Enhancing Mental Well-Being: As social beings, living in a purposeful and diverse community positively impacts overall mental and emotional well-being. “When you bring generations together, children have people who have time to look at them, listen to them, play with them, and enjoy them. Seniors have a purpose in mentoring parents and children,” says Karin Krause, Executive Director of Hope and a Future, an intergenerational community where individuals feel a sense of purpose and empowerment through caring for each other. Everyone benefits from the intentionality of the community.
Are you seeking a more enriching and vibrant living option in retirement? Intergenerational cohousing celebrates the beauty of a purposeful community where individuals can learn and engage with peers experiencing different stages of life. While there are fewer than 100 intergenerational cohousing communities in the U.S. compared to nearly 20,000 retirement communities, we think the time has come to explore this innovative idea for enhanced generational understanding and improved quality of life.
Throughout the “The Nuts and Bolts” section of this blog, we will introduce you to the practical needs in retirement.