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A few weeks ago we took a look at groups of people who team up to purchase homes. Soon after, I heard from reader MG who’d suggested a new angle on the roommate-buyer phenomenon:

One thing we keep discussing with our friends is “co-housing” as a way to share costs and life experiences as you age.  We hope for a community of friends and family as opposed to a congregate care facility, an oversized but expensively staffed but (hopefully) equity rich house or (shudder) nursing home.

I just came across a really interesting story in today’s New York Times examining the trend:

Urban planners and senior housing experts say this movement, organized by residents rather than government agencies or social service providers, could make “aging in place” safe and affordable for a majority of elderly people. Almost 9 in 10 Americans over the age of 60, according to AARP polls, share the Allens’ wish to live out their lives in familiar surroundings.

Many of these self-help communities are calling themselves villages, playing on the notion that it takes a village to raise a child and also support the aged in their decline. Some are expected to open this fall on Capitol Hill; in Cambridge, Mass.; New Canaan, Conn.; Palo Alto, Calif.; and Bronxville, N.Y.

A couple of months ago, reader CC sent me some thoughts about caring for aging parents and in-laws. It’s not just about the house, CC said — it’s also about services and health care and simple things like gardening and food preparation. Here’s some more of that e-mail:

Not many people want to address that this is really what staying-at-home amounts to: dying younger. And this, perhaps irrational desire to stay-at-home often just about kills one or more of the individuals in an elderly couple. …

I guess my point is that from a planning perspective, we’re going to need way-more assisted-living developments than most people want to confront. It’s best – though not usual – if they are combined with nursing homes in the same complex. It makes the transitions easier if folks don’t have to completely change their social community at the same time they need additional health care support. It’s really pretty cruel when you think about it – requiring someone to leave their community to get the care they need.

But in America today we seem to really believe that “the market” is best, even when the amount of unnecessary pain and suffering is very high – even for those who can afford to pay for eldercare services.

KELLY BENNETT

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