Alternatives to assisted living facilities and nursing Homes

Portrait of a group of seniors

For many seniors, there will come a time where they cannot live at home by themselves anymore.  Some will be able to move in with adult children, others may move into an assisted living facility, personal care facility or nursing home.  While these options provide security and care, they also result in a loss of independence and choice. Granted, you can’t have everything that you want and as we age, we have to deal with health issues.  Still, if you are of sound mind and in good health, there may be other options available to you.

Many people are opting for either co-housing like The Golden Girls or coming together in networks whereby people live in the same neighborhood or building and split the bill for any services that they need.  These options allow people to have their independence, while providing a group of people to socialize with in good times and lean on when health or other situations call for it.

Co-housing can range from having roommates in the home you and your spouse bought as newlyweds to living in a community like Oakcreek Community in Stillwater, Oklahoma, near Oklahoma State University, or even to multi-generational communities that welcome families.  In the Philadelphia area there are several co-housing projects known as “villages” that are networks of seniors who live near each other that allows them to age in place. These villages are:

Penn’s Village

East Falls Village

Northwest Village Network

What co-housing and villages have in common is that organizers and participants both saw what happened to parents and relatives as they aged and it wasn’t the best case or even a satisfactory scenario.  While many loved ones were able to age in place, once friends and spouses died, they became increasingly isolated. Or they depended on adult children, who were many times stretched thinly due to demands from work and/or their own families.

As a result, many boomers have decided to design a type of living that isn’t like their mothers’ nursing homes. Many of them are divorced, don’t have children or have children who live far away, so this type of living arrangement gives them more choices as to how they want to live.  While nursing homes, personal care facilities and assisted living facilities provide high quality care, they can be paternalistic in their approach and boomers aren’t known for going along with paternalistic institutions.

Yet, as interesting as this living concept sounds, one sticking point is that it’s an ad-hoc phenomenon. People are forming these communities without government support.  And while having fewer regulations to deal with when the government isn’t involved can be a good thing, there is no oversight as to quality, building regulations and cost.  So it will be interesting to see how this type of living arrangement will continue to grow in popularity as more boomers and Generation Xers continue to age.

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