Re: Cohousing Pioneers: Second Round
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Tue, 24 Dec 2013 06:17:50 -0800 (PST)
The retired have skills, time, and flexibility -- and they also have money.  
That is, in many cases, they have accumulated savings and home equity, and can 
afford to invest in a new community.  So they are in a stronger financial 
position than a starting-out family.  At Cornerstone in Cambridge, MA, we try 
very hard to maintain age diversity, but given local housing prices, not many 
young families can afford to buy in.

But there is a downside to watch out for:  Aging in place, and a rising average 
age.  I am a 69-year-old architect (still working full time, thanks for asking) 
having specialized in eldercare:  retirement housing, assisted living, nursing 
homes, Alzheimer's Suites, and the like.  From this experience, I can fairly 
characterize the social dynamics of accommodations for elderly groups.

When you first open the doors of the elder-focused community, it is of great 
interest to the able and independent elderly, which we call the Go-gos.  They 
bring energy, enthusiasm, optimism about new friends and experiences, and a 
sense of adventure -- much akin, in fact, to a young person's arrival at 

But time marches on, and energy and capability inevitably decline.  The Go-gos 
morph into the Slow-gos, and finally the No-gos.  After a while, the community 
center of gravity has moved to septuagenarians and octogenarians, and you have 
a lot of people hoping for help to get to their doctor appointment, but unable 
to offer much help to each other.  When a unit opens up, it may be visited by a 
Go-go couple shopping for housing, but they look around and say, Hey, these 
people are too damn old!  Now your community is in upward age spiral that is 
very hard to reverse.

Even though much of my career has been devoted to elderly housing, I have come 
to be dead set against age-segregated communities, and personally will shun 
them as long as I can.

Philip Dowds

> On Dec 24, 2013, at 8:12 AM, Bob Morrison <rhmorrison [at]> wrote:
>  This idea has an important point, one that I have rarely seen in ideas for 
> founding new cohos. That is that retirees are a valuable resource for this. 
> Gary cited two reasons for this: They have cumulative life skills that they 
> can use to help make it happen, and they can move to a region that doesn't 
> have a lot of good jobs. I would add another: time. Here at Mosaic Commons, 
> many residents work over 45 hours a week, or over 50 if you include commuting 
> time. But retirees have time, some of which they can use to pursue something 
> like this. 
>  Re Sharon's concern about people developing a coho from a distance: I 
> interpreted Gary's post to mean that retired cohousers (and others) would 
> sell their home, move to the Ozarks, and live in rental housing for a year or 
> two while they found their new community. 
> Bob Morrison
> Mosaic Commons Cohousing
> Berlin, MA
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