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Proposing elderly communal housing; i.e. private residence with central/shared kitchen and living rooms with private bed and bathrooms.

For the elderly who don't want as "assisted care" fascility and don't have family, yet need some form of community life. Perhaps with a live-in assistant to help drive to Dr. appointments, hairdressers , marketing etc. and otherwise help. The elderly would basically help each other and remain social and somewhat independent. I hear it's the latest rage at colleges these days. Question: why are so few of these being built in the US? Money?

  • May 28 2013: I am particularly interested in this idea. I am a general contractor and I am aging and I am gay. These are all great qualifications for building and living in a POD type living environment. We planned an entire community with architectural schematics for this concept. We named it OUR HOUSE. Because many of us have love animals we included a animal sanctuary where we could interact with the community and volunteer. Each home was basically a duplex so it could be sold as a single or join two together easily. All the homes opened to a nice interior courtyard that was safe for people and animals. We planned for One large LIVING ROOM where the noon meal would be shared. We felt it would be important to include gardening, harvesting, cooking, cleaning as joint chores to keep us active. I could go on and on....We paid particular attention to making the homes affordable, GREEN, and modern as most of the assisted living facilities do not necessarily cater to good design.
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    May 26 2013: What is required is a group of people with diverse talents, from financial advisers and accountants to nurses and doctors, from chefs, gardeners, and artists, to cleaning crews. From someone who can find a property worth building upon or retrofitting, to men and women who can do the work --all in their senior years, alone, and all willing to pull together. And place for them to meet and brainstorm. I guess we need a website. I pipe dream, I guess. But one I like to dwell upon. Often.
    • May 27 2013: In my research, I've learned about a Charles Durette, architect, who promotes co-housing and helps get a community off the ground.
      I will check it out tomorrow.
    • Jun 2 2013: I think there is definitely real needs here that is not met, and I am very interested in learning more and to contribute. The key, as mentioned by others before: serve the needs motivated by passion, self-help, community, as opposed to profit-oriented business. Not a charity either! Nothing like that out there I know of. When enough people dream about it, it is no longer a dream.
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    May 26 2013: In what communities? Again, I am speaking of the single aged person M-L first spoke of, those who by living alone without family or friends lose hope and purpose. We baby boomers need communes that don't cost a fortune to join as the assisted living facilities do. What's being offered now are facilities that in most cases have shareholders who demand growing earnings reports, require prohibitively large monthly payments for too many. These facilities don't stimulate anyone. If you work in the construction industry, you know that a simple commune could be built with separate housing units and communal areas for "roommates" for much less than what's already being offered. Ideally, surrogate family communes for old people that encourage continued work, supply computers, learning centers, libraries, ateliers, and gyms --rather than merely supplying a bed, food, a TV, and a communal area --where maybe you can play board games but that's all-- for entertainment. Taking care of each other keeps people alive, gives them purpose, a reason to get out of bed. We should be taking care of each other. Our society has been brainwashed into thinking it can't take care of itself without the help of a corporation.
  • May 29 2013: As a 66 year old living in Community Housing in Brisbane Australia, I have often spoken about this with friends of same age. Single and living alone leaves a lot to be desired. We've discussed how community housing could be set up with each of us having open plan, ground level unit which comprised a kitchenette, bedroom, bathroom. On the same site, a larger building which housed a community kitchen, eating and entertainment area could be the general meeting place and meals could be prepared on a community basis.
    We think this could work quite well as it could offer each individual privacy and also a way of getting together with others to prepare and eat food and then share entertainment. None of us wish to go into a nursing home
  • May 29 2013: My friends and I used to always joke about what we'd do once our kids were grown. I've been separated from my husband for years, and I just turned 60. My daughter is 18 and was going off to college, but she will defer because she has terrible neuro-lyme, that must be dealt with. She worries that if she goes to college, I will be alone. I was hoping that I could return to the work force, as money is a real issue. My idea with friends was to rent/buy a big home with enough rooms for each of us, and common areas we could share (since we know each other well) and try to stay as youthful as possible. We used to have really fun theme parties when we were young and working together, and we thought why not as we get old. Who wants to sit around and think about dying. No fun there. It's a bit harder to live with strangers (kind of like kids have to do in college!), but if enough people, who have common interests, can share a home and always have interesting things planned, it could be fun. And one is never too old to do that!
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    Jun 4 2013: On M-L's comment on the 27th, I looked at's site, and sent them a query regarding cohousing in the Southeast. Today, Mr. Durette responded with the suggestion that we look at his book at this site: His book and the others there look interesting. He also suggested a phone call next Thursday which is past the time this thread will expire. Perhaps I will call him and suggest a TED talk.
    • Jun 15 2013: I suggested Charles Durett to TED for a possible talk last week.
  • May 28 2013: I am very glad to see this topic. It seems there has recently been a flood of visionaries with ideas about different lifestyles as we age. I would like to add what I call "pod living" to the mix. I wrote a book last year entitled "Borderless Broads, Rethink Your Lifestyle and Rewrite Your Future" which was in large part dedicated to women over 50 and living solo. Expanding our ideas of family beyond blood to intentional kinship groups and creating pod living in a variety of creative and financially re-modeled way. Encouraging women to be "borderless broads" and go beyond all current assumptions about aging and lifestyle.
    Bravo for this discussion and thanks!
    Morgana Morgaine (
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    May 28 2013: I was thinking about something similar the other day. In particular I was wondering about a community for both the elderly and a half-way house. That may sound like a disaster (and it certainly could be). I think if you had really good organization and training you could end up creating a really great synergy. I was inspired by a TED talk by Sugata Mitra. In the talk he mentioned training elderly british women to encourage children as they learn. I think there could be a similar training for the elderly to be supportive and the recovering addicts and alcoholics could be physically supportive. I had an internship at a drug rehab for low income women and children and I noticed that most of them really hadn't gotten the support and recovery that they needed before they left. They probably won't either.
    • May 28 2013: A possible good thought...
    • May 29 2013: A laudible thought but probably more than what most elderly would want. Many have already raised their own children and don't need that experience again. Good idea but highly impractical I feel.
  • May 26 2013: I love this concept. There are many churches with outreach programs to help prisoners, the hungry, those in need of good housing. I'm wondering if this could be another aspect. Help set up some of these independent living situations so that those of us who would prefer to remain social but have our own private area too could do so.
  • May 26 2013: closest thing to what I'm referring are the 4 co-housing units being built in Co. and Ca. Focused on residents helping one another as opposed to costly service "institutions". These are 1 and 2 bedroom units or condo/townhomes incorporating community guest room, gardens, kitchen, meeting room etc. Idea here was imported from Denmark. But many diverse options to consider.
  • Jun 15 2013: You can reach me at: Thanks all, M-L.
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    Jun 15 2013: In 20 hours this conversation will close. It will be years before I have to act on what we've discussed here, but I will be sorry that I lost contact with you of like mind. I'm on Linked In as a photographer in Marietta, Ga., and FB as a painter, if you'd like to stay in touch. Maybe over time we could build our community. And I will suggest a wonderful book about the kind of people we used to be: The Poet of Tolstoy Park by Sonny Brewer.
  • Jun 15 2013: Speaking personally, although I agree that providing economic and cultural diversity are lofty goals, having little children included might not be practical nor wanted, except for visits by family at "guest house". If residents want generational diversity, they could volunteer at nearby schools, nurseries, hospitals etc. Bottom line is "fixed income' of the residents who can't afford the added expense of playgrounds, daycare etc. The diversity can be obtained racially, culturally and economically without the introduction and confusion of little ones running about. Economics has alot to do with these communities' viabilities. Just a thought.
  • Jun 15 2013: Any relevant information is welcomed. Thanks Manishka.
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    Jun 15 2013: My utopia is Diana Cammack's. I spend most of my time looking up, dreaming, planning, discussing, the intermediary steps to achieve it.
    A direct democracy system. Solar power and power from continuous microwave catalytic depolymerization which extracts and utilizes the methane and syngas that would result from decomposition of waste anyway, it gives a biochar byproduct which we use to make terra preta to fertilize the cooperative farm which is in the green space between buildings in the city and just enough surrounding land to feed all the people there.

    All humans move to these self sufficient cities and live in comfort in mixed use buildings with a hospital and school and retail. The apartments are interspersed within the vertical farm that is part of the cooperative. Each building's population is dense enough to be able to afford the sports fields and equipment required for them. The same population is dense enough that it makes a subway stop there viable. It's not a kibbutz in that everyone shares their income , they don't have to eat in the collective cafeteria, and the kids are not separated from their parents.

    "It takes a village to raise a child" still applies because they are exposed to the multiple careers, disciplines and hobbies of the numerous residents. Parents no longer have to schedule playdates and organise activities as all you need to do to have friends is open the door and step outside.

    Grandparents no longer have to choose between being a burden on their children and getting professional care at a nursing home and long for their family to take time out to visit them. the hospital downstairs can send nurses up the elevator to help. They don't have to wait to be entertained by volunteers as they can just take the elevator down to the school and volunteer and be useful and still contribute to society.

    All the in-between stages woven throughout.
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    Jun 15 2013:
    Ecological urbanism
    Green urbanism
    Landscape urbanism,
    Networked Urbanism
    New urbanism,
    Unitary urbanism,
    Peer-to-peer urbanism,
    sustainable urbanism

    There are quite a few urbanisms, But I find that they are all similar in that they all shy away from segregation and specialised areas. I like that. they're mixed use, mixed income, and although unspecified, I would add mixed age neighborhoods with the density to make it vibrant. I see several have already mentioned staying active participants in society. I think that would be lovely and valuable. and a reflection of the interdependence of life.

    I'd like to copy my post from another thread because it applies here too.
    Does this sound ok or way off base?
  • Jun 12 2013: My findings/ summary based on this TED conversation and preliminary research: there is definitely a growing interest and need for alternative housing options for our growin older population. Most don't want our only option to be heartless institutions yet we find ourselves, for one reason or another, lacking the caring help of blood relatives. The co-housing movement began in Denmark and was imported to the US by Charles Durett, a West Coast architect. He has been instrumental in creating several such communities west of CO. and even as far away as the Aleutian Islands. I have therefore suggested to TED that he be a future speaker. Several similar concepts are being tried on the East Coast, the "village" concept in Boston and Washington, D.C. However in the Southeast, where I reside, implementing this concept seems hung up on the profitabilty for various developers/builders, and thereby lose much of the movements incentives. I.e. in NC, there are endless Governor's panels studying the feasibilty of such housing, where lots of suggestions are made but having no concrete results. I find that only a national lreader such as Mr. Durett can initiate East Coat development and perhaps employ government aid to get it done. Thanks all for your input!
  • Jun 7 2013: Thanks Ellen, Viewed your recommended site and it seems all "village" concept communities in NC are still in the exploratory or perhaps planning stage. There seems to be alot of mercenary interests involved which may not fit the need but will pursue the site further. I extended this conversation for an additional week and suggested Charles Durett as a possible future TED speaker. Many thanks.
  • Jun 6 2013: In addition to co-housing, which can often be a long and sometimes costly process to create, there is also the "Village" concept in many locations. These are virtual communities where people remain in their own homes, and support each other with volunteer services. Some Villages focus on access to higher-end paid services (e.g. limos to ferry folks to doctor appts) and most also have an annual fee to cover administrative costs. One of the first was Beacon Village in Boston. Many are affiliated with the Village to Village Network , but a village community could also be created independently. Here in San Francisco, there's a village community for GLBT elders.
    • Jun 6 2013: Your idea sounds intriguing but perhaps more costly. Do you have any reference sites where I could check this "village" concept out?
      • Jun 7 2013: Here's a good introductory article in the May/June AARP magazine:

        Since the village concept focuses on aging-in-place, it can be much less expensive than co-housing, depending on the communities involved. It's really an apples vs. oranges comparison of two different models, one providing housing, the other services. Even folks living in mixed age co-housing communities might benefit from some village services, especially as elders become more frail and require 24-hour or more skilled care.
  • Jun 4 2013: I have asked TED to please extend this conversation due to your excellent suggestions. I have also asked TED to consider Charles Durett for a future lecture as I feel there is a growing need and interest in the topic with our burgeoning elder population. Thanks Erin for your excellent ideas and suggestions. P.S. I also live in the southeast and gather this co-housing movement exists only west of Co. at this time.
  • Jun 4 2013: That sounds like a wonderful proposal! Thanks for your research site info. will check it out. Mr. Durette is undoubtedly an excellent source of information and will help in order to encourage his architecture business. I wonder if a group of people seeking his aid will not be a prerequisite? I'm located in Raleigh, NC. if I can be of asssistance. I will try to extend this thread's time limit to accommodate further news from you and others.
  • Jun 1 2013: I lived in communal housing in Vancouver for 23 years with my son. It was (and still is) an urban rural community and the city co-op houses 40 people of all generations. In my mind this is the best way to age, especially if a single person. We can envision lots of exciting options for housing to replace the institution the the boomers want to replace. But if we talking about housing seniors exclusively, for me something is lost - the vibrancy and dynamic of living with different ages AND the potential for truly taking on a role as an elder in a culture which is missing this.

    In the Lower Mainland in BC there are some innovative housing opportunities being built, for example where units are approx. 350 sq. feet consisting of bedroom, bathroom and sitting room with communal kitchen and living area. Think this will be the way forward.
    • Jun 2 2013: I agree with you in general. What I was referring to was concern for many of us who, for one reason or another, don't have families for care, socialization etc. I hear that Vancouver is a wonderful place to live and you are fortunate to have a son nearby. In eastern US, it seems for those of us without families only have the choice for future institutional care and that is expensive and often unpleasant. Many of the "older" people are seeking the friendship and care of friends, choices and fun activities, i.e. gardens etc.
  • May 30 2013: Great ideas. Bottom line goals seem to be similar. None of us want an institution and many don't have families, for differing reasons. This would entail sharing similar burdens and caring for one another in a social and productive manner. Her in the US there are a few architects who will help design and locate such communities though they've generally caught on more in our western part of the continent. Keep me posted. Many thanks. M-L.
  • May 30 2013: True...empathy and workig and living together in mutual harmony is the primary goal here.
  • May 30 2013: Understand but I don't feel that money shouldn't be the primary motivator.; incentive yes but not all there is to consider. There are architects who help develop these co-housing "communities" but these places seem to exist only west of Co. Need some to spread to the East coast.
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    • May 26 2013: I couldn't find such communal retirement places in Fl....existing ones are all corporate money-makers and drainers, hardly caring about their habitants. Too fru-fru, costly, unstimulating and 'traditional'. No incentives to care about each other, garden etc.
    • May 29 2013: Why is it people always seem to dismiss anything unless the bottom line will benefit them materially. This isn't about "business"'s about compassionate living for the elderly!
  • May 26 2013: Perhaps but these would be PRIVATE homes in existing communities (occupants would share the investment and costs). There are about 3-4 such "communities" being built in the U.S. but hardly enough to serve demand.
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    May 26 2013: Perhaps what you describe is too close to what is already offered in retirement communities to warrant a distinct service offering.