Elder Spirit Community - Abingdon, VA |  Photo by Anne P. Glass

Elder Spirit Community - Abingdon, VA | Photo by Anne P. Glass

Aging in placePeople remain in their own homes as they age.

Cohousing or "living group": The original cohousing concept is associated with Denmark, although similar communities also developed in Sweden and the Netherlands. Characteristics include (1) potential residents are involved in the planning and development process; (2) they share common spaces and activities but have their own private living units; (3) the physical lay-out is designed to encourage social contact; and (4) the community is managed by the residents. Charles Durrett and Kathryn McCamant are widely credited with bringing the idea to the United States in the 1970s, and over 90 intergenerational cohousing communities now exist in the U.S.

Elder cohousing or "living group": A new phenomenon in the U.S., elder or senior cohousing is cohousing that is designed for an adult-only community. The first elder cohousing communities began to appear in late 2005 to early 2006. Typically, at least one resident in the household must be age 55 or above. Once again, the concept is much further advanced in Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden (where they more often use the term “collective housing”). 

Intentional community: There is no single definition of “intentional community,” but generally the idea is that a group of people intentionally choose to live together, dedicated to specific communal goals and values, and the community has clear borders and membership (per the Fellowship for Intentional Communities).

Leisure-Oriented Retirement Communities (LORCs): LORCs are generally marketed as “active adult” communities in which the pursuit of golf and other recreational activities is a primary focus.

Naturally-Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs): NORCs are buildings or neighborhoods in which a significant percentage of the residents – usually more than half – are age 55 and over. These residents have typically aged in place and the setting was not designed with the needs of older adults in mind. NORCs may also result from the additional movement of other older people into the setting, and the movement of younger adults away from the setting.

The “Village:” Beacon Hill Village in Boston, Massachusetts, is the prototype for the Village concept. In this model, older people who are aging in place can become members of the Village, which is a non-profit organization. Through this organization, they are then provided with services and information to help them remain independent. 

Compiled by Anne P. Glass, 2010-2015