Re: Aging in Place: Is your community becoming a NORC?
From: Ann Zabaldo (
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 2010 09:56:16 -0700 (PDT)
Hi Tom and all!

Actually ... I see another trend developing. People raising their kids in cohousing and then leaving to pursue other ventures. We've raised our kids! We're done! We're off to see the world!! And people "retiring" out of cohousing back to their original home town. I see little conversation or movement towards "aging in place in cohousing." Rather I feel there's an unexpressed expectation that older people will move out when they need services.

In truth ... it's hard for a community to provide ongoing services for people. We can do it for pregnant moms, people recovering from surgery or illness. But long term ongoing services? It's hard. Especially if there's more than one household needing these services. We are not well equipped to do this. We all have busy lives.

The question I have is: how many healthy individuals does it take to support one frail elderly? Can a community of 35 or 40 support maybe one, maybe two? But three or more? It's hard.

That's why I'm moderating this panel on Aging in Community at the MAC conference tomorrow: to begin the conversation among cohousers HOW to provide services to older residents that won't overwhelm the system. We are fortunate to have Rita Kostiuk from the Village to Village Network (Beacon HIll) to explain how their service program to clients work. We need to think about how to bring the services of the larger community into our communities. Maybe the role of the cohousing community is to help organize municipal services to the person needing them. I don't know THE answer. I'm looking for multiple suggestions on how cohousing communities can move in this direction.

We will also have Dene Peterson, ElderSpirit Community in Abingdon, VA, describing why cohousing built especially for empty nesters, boomers and seniors is a positive model. (I can hear the wailing: I don't want to live w/ just "old folks!" Come and learn why this model is working!)

And... Joan King from Eastern Village will describe what her community has been doing w/ the "retired" or soon to be "retired" set in her community.

So what I'm seeing is little or no support for "aging in community" as we currently have it set up. Yes. We want ALL our members to remain at home. But what's the reality of support being available? This is NOT a rebuke -- this is just where we are in our evolution. Cohousing is young in the US and we are now getting to the place where our history is catching up w/ us so we now have the opportunity to address these questions.

Will your community be a NORC or will it be filled w/ new young adults w/ new babies who do not have the same bonding w/ the founding members of your community who now find themselves in need of services? How is this going to play out?

I'm surely excited and curious to see how cohousing will answers these questions. It's an opportunity to explore even further and more deeply the meaning of "community."

I wish all of you could be at this conference tomorrow and help w/ this conversation. Maybe we can follow it up w/ a conversation in Boulder in June? I'll be there. Will you?

Best --

Ann Zabaldo
Takoma Village Cohousing
Washington, DC
Principal, Cohousing Collaborative, LLC
Falls Church VA
703 663 3911

On Mar 19, 2010, at 11:50 AM, Thomas Lofft wrote:

We may have all aspired to be young and enjoy our children forever. However, as we witness our children maturing and leaving for college, one day we awake and realize we have aged ourselves and our community may have become a NORC: a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community.


Despite our best intentions that it would remain an intergenerational community forever, however long that may be.

Questions: What challenges does the Cohousing NORC face if it does not want to lose its intergenerationality?

How do we deal with those challenges?

Will we find the answer in Boulder?


Thanks for reading.

Tom Lofft

Liberty Village, MD

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