People helping each other move into cohousing.

10 Things You Should Know About Cohousing

What is Senior Cohousing?

Cohousing is a movement taking the United States by storm, especially among young families and baby boomers. Senior cohousing is becoming popular.

Cohousing is a very different kind of lifestyle. It is not just about the physical amenities the size of your living space, or whether or not there’s a community garden. Living in cohousing requires a different kind of commitment than what you normally encounter in a neighborhood. Here are a few things to understand about cohousing.

Senior Cohousing is not a Cult

You are not expected to sign away your life savings or first born child when you join a cohousing community.

In fact, owning a home in a cohousing community is very much like owning a home in any homeowner’s association (HOA. Many use the HOA model to handle community property dues and maintenance and to abide by local zoning laws and ordinances. While residents are often screened for their willingness to participate in community life, cohousing seldom requires residents to participate in community dinners or social gatherings if they do not want to.

Cohousing is Growing in Popularity

There are over 100 cohousing communities in the U.S. and the market is continually growing. Most cohousing homes and rentals go quickly.

You can find cohousing communities all across the U.S., from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Los Angeles, California, to Washington, D.C. They have become so popular because it enhances the social aspects in a senior's life. If a sneior lives alone it can become quite lonely. Senior cohousing allows for conversations and friendships to be made.

Everyone Pitches In

One of the unique things about cohousing is that residents typically care for the community themselves. Residents pitch in to handle building maintenance, small construction projects, landscaping care, pool maintenance and even security.

Sonora Cohousing in Tucson, Arizona has a poultry team that raises chickens and ducks and gathers eggs for residents, a beekeeping team, a community garden team, and a fruit tree team to care for its lush edible landscaping.

Senior Cohousing Lowers Home and Living Costs

Homes in cohousing are typically much smaller than suburban homes and more environmentally sound. Often, cohousing communities require some green construction and power-saving features. Perhaps the biggest advantage is that since residents can share common spaces and activities, there is no need to have a spacious home.

Considerable downsizing is possible because you no longer need to own your own popcorn popper, ice cream machine, wood chipper, power tools, furniture dolly or lawnmower. Most communities have fully equipped community kitchens, barbecues, workshops, bike sheds, dog parks and outdoor entertaining areas.

More Amenities

Living in cohousing offers plenty of fun amenities that a young family or older couple might struggle to afford, like a pool and hot tub, expansive lawn, playground, lush landscaping, outdoor grills, a fully-equipped gym and arts studio with a pottery kiln.

Unlike an upscale community where a developer provides luxurious but unimaginative resources, residents get to decide how their community dollars are spent. Prairie Spruce Commons in Regina, Saskatchewan is planning a bike pool for residents and their guests.

Living in Cohousing Provides a Strong Sense of Community

For empty nesters, cohousing provides a place where families interact socially on a regular basis and in many cohousing communities the inter-generational aspect is considered important.

Something for Everyone

Some cohousing communities revolve around a specific theme, like eco-farming or meditation. Many are designed specifically for seniors, while others may offer a mix of ages and opportunities like homeschooling groups.

Plenty of Privacy

Every home is a unique and individual unit, no different than in a normal neighborhood or apartment complex. Many units have walled, private backyards or balconies.

Be Aware of Consensus Versus Majority Voting

Some cohouses operate on what is called a consensus model, which means all members must agree to an improvement or change in the community. This can cause difficulties if one or two curmudgeons consistently block progress just for the sake of being contentious.

If you are the kind of person who likes to get things done without endless town meetings, you may want to choose a community that operates differently. If you are considering moving into cohousing, ask about how the community governs itself, what the hot button issues typically tend to be and how long it takes to resolve issues.

Fabulous Opportunities for Travel

Cohousers are known for their openness, generosity and love of travel. It is not at all uncommon for cohousers to toss each other the keys to their home, car or boat. Pet sitting is often shared and many communities have one or more guest suites that are rented to family or other cohousers for a very low cost.

Other residents of cohousing frequently open their homes to visitors or agree to swap living spaces, particularly during the holidays or summer travels.