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Consider Co-Housing for Retirement

{ 40 comments }
portland co-housing

The common area looks great to me.

Would you consider Co-Housing for retirement?

What exactly is Co-Housing? Co-Housing is a planned community with the goal of creating a great neighborhood with a lot of social interaction. The Daybreak co-housing project in Portland looks really neat. The complex is located in an urban area (3 miles from downtown) and is near the bus and light rail line. Think of it as buying a condo with an extensive common area and activity calendar included.

The common area at Daybreak consist of 7,000 sq feet on the main floor and basement. I see a great room, living room, kitchen and common dining area, family room, kids playroom, spiritual space, bicycle workshop, guest rooms, and more. These amenities are much more extensive than in a regular condominium building and are conducive to building a cohesive community.

Neighbors can share cooking and clean up duties and have a community meal as often as they’d like. Each individual units have full kitchens and dining areas so you can cook and eat in your own home as well if you aren’t feeling social. I imagine it would be like living in a big dorm where neighbors often hang out in the common area. Most condominiums have a gym and that’s about it. You rarely see your neighbors except at the annual homeowners association meeting or unless you make specific plans to get together. I think an extensive useable common area would improve this quite a lot. I want to make it clear that there are no staffs here and everyone help take care of the complex so it is not like a retirement home.

Co-Housing is very interesting to me because in the US where we take great pride in self sufficiency, it is difficult to ask for help. In other countries, neighbors and families are much closer. When we retire here in the US, we are much more independent and have to deal with most challenges ourselves. One of my older relatives fell on her backyard concrete patio and hurt herself, but there was nobody around to help. She had to deal with cleaning up and bandaging herself without any assistance. This got me thinking about co-housing as an alternative to retiring at home.

In a co-housing project, there should be plenty of young folks around who can help me open a jar of Ragu if I’m having problems with it. This Daybreak complex is big enough to house a diverse group of people ranging from young couples to retirees. They also have a buddy system where a new family is paired with a current resident who could introduce them to others and show them how things work.

portland cohousing daybreak

This unit is about as big as our current condo.

The price of a unit in the Daybreak co-housing project is somewhat expensive at around 250k for a one bedroom unit and 350k for a two bedroom. You can buy an older 3 bedroom house in this area for the price of the one bedroom unit. I guess you are buying into the lifestyle and the community oriented ideal. The complex is  built with sustainability in mind and incorporated many “green” features. I’m sure this contributed to the higher price as well.

Personally, I think the co-housing idea is great. I would love to live in a tight knit community where neighbors interact with each other more. When I was at university, I loved dorm living with tons of friends around and maybe co-housing would be similar to that. Once we retire, we will have a lot more time and can do many more community oriented activities. I would consider co-housing again at that time. I’m sure they will be more common in the future.

What do you think about co-housing? It seems like an ideal retirement housing to me, but I could be missing something. Does anyone have any experience with co-housing? How do you like it?

Updated with comment from Chris, a resident at the Daybreak community.

Well – as someone who lives in Daybreak, I’d like to thank whoever wrote the original post. But I need to point out that it is very definitely not like living in a dorm. We each have our own apartment/condo/unit and you could be entirely self-sufficient and hole up in your own apartment if you like. Although we have a shared laundry room, there is hookup for a washer and dryer in every unit. But the whole point of living in co-housing is in fact to spent time with other people, to share the challenges and the joys of everyday living. Some of us garden together and we all help keep the place running (no paid staff). Several here are indeed retired – and some of us who sure as hell wish we were retired. We have folks in their 70s and we have young families and everything in between; most of us are in our 40s and 50s. There are definitely lots of advantages to living in co-housing – you feel connected with your neighbors. We help each other – rides to the airport, taking care of pets when someone travels, and yes, being there when someone is sick or has some other kind of setback. We have impromptu get-togethers (“hey, who wants to go for a walk, or for pizza?” as well as planned, shared meals. We still have quite a few units for sale – and we also are happy to have renters. We’d love to have you come to a social and tour and meet us!

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{ 40 comments… add one }
  • 101 Centavos December 19, 2011, 3:28 am

    I’ve lived in a remote work camp for extended periods, back when I was young and single… and flexible.
    Now that I’m older and more crotchety and set in my ways, I might not make the best living companion — except for Mrs. 101, who seems willing to put up with my foibles.
    I think this is a good option for people who are so inclined. And I might well change my mind on it after we’re empty nesters.

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2011, 9:06 am

      I think it takes a certain mindset to live in a close knit community. We probably can’t do it at this time either. 🙂

      • Jon -- Free Money Wisdom December 20, 2011, 10:44 am

        I know my fiancee’s Grandma lives in this type of housing. She absolutely loves it. However, she is a widow—so being around people is something she enjoys or otherwise she would be lonely. It also is great for those who don’t want to have to worry about taking care of the minute details in life. I think she lives in a place where there is assisted living….perhaps similar to co-housing?

        • retirebyforty December 20, 2011, 11:08 am

          It sounds more like a retirement home. Co-housing is much more independent. There are no staffs and you have to deal with all the minute details. 🙂

  • KC @ PsychoMoney December 19, 2011, 5:24 am

    This is an interesting concept. I would do it for sure if I was single but with a family I am not sure if I would. But then again if you goal is to not work you life away and enjoy a little more of it instead………..

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2011, 9:09 am

      I think this would work well for young families too. If there are kids of similar age in the complex, you can share baby sitting duties and make good friends. It tough to find a good baby sitter these days.

    • Jerry McIntire April 5, 2014, 8:22 am

      We’ve lived in cohousing in Washington, and are building a new community in our new home, Wisconsin. We have a son… cohousing is great for kids, that’s one of the reasons we were attracted to it. Safe, a large common area with no cars in sight where kids can play and you know all your neighbors. Hard to beat.

  • Roshawn @ Watson Inc December 19, 2011, 5:29 am

    You know, this was sounding promising UNTIL you likened it to dormitory living. That instantly brought negative recollections from undergrad and made me say no thank you. The concept is fine, but I don’t think it is for everyone. Some people will be inclined to move in this direction while others would find such an arrangement grievous.

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2011, 9:10 am

      Sorry about that. 🙂 It was just my impression and I’m sure everyone will have a different idea of what it’s like. It also sounds a bit like an upscale commune. heh heh.

  • Moneycone December 19, 2011, 5:41 am

    I think this is a great idea! For older retirees, it gives the much cherished comfort of company and saves you money in addition.

    (Plus you don’t have to subscribe to one of those alert systems in case you have an accident!)

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2011, 9:10 am

      I like this idea much better than a retirement community. There are people of different ages and I think it’s more interesting that way.

  • Tim @ Faith and Finance December 19, 2011, 7:04 am

    I think it can work great. My wife’s grandma is in a similar setup. It’s good to have friends around, especially if you’re older and have lost a loved one. I don’t think I’ll be looking forward to this kind of setup though…seems too much like a retirement home.

  • PKamp3 December 19, 2011, 7:28 am

    I guess I was another one who thought of dorm living – a mixed bag for me, haha. It had its moments but I’m glad to have a SFH now. Interesting concept though, but at this point not for me.

  • Aloysa December 19, 2011, 10:05 am

    I am not an easy neighbor. I like things my way (or Beaker’s way – but that’s negotiable :)) I would be a witch in the houses like this. It is not for me. But maybe when I get older, I’ll get more flexible. Or bitchier… lol

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2011, 11:31 am

      I’m a very good neighbor. I’m pretty quite in general and doesn’t bother anyone too much. This makes it difficult to make close friendship though. 🙂

  • krantcents December 19, 2011, 10:45 am

    I expect to live on my own for as long as I can. My children suggested a shipping container house. i certainly need a one story residence and they do interesting things with those containers. Afterall, it might work better in earthquake country.

  • Miss T @ Prairie EcoThrifter December 19, 2011, 10:52 am

    Interesting idea. I think we plan on living on our own as alone as we can but we shall see what the future holds.

    • Jerry McIntire April 5, 2014, 8:25 am

      Cohousing *is* living on your own, in your own home where you have all the privacy and “control” you want. Some cohousing communities are urban and like condos, some are suburban or ex-urban with individual lots and single-family homes. Over 130 of them in the U.S.!

  • Katlin December 19, 2011, 3:15 pm

    One of the many advantages of cohousing is building community by sharing some meals each week. Daybreak Cohousing does a great job of this. Check out this article about how they do it: http://www.oregonlive.com/foodday/index.ssf/2011/10/where_feed_thy_neighbor_rules.html I would love to come home to a shared dinner!

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2011, 3:40 pm

      I think that’s one of the best benefit and it should contribute to the sense of community greatly. Thanks for the link!
      BTW, Mrs. RB40 made a snarky comment about quinoa when she edit the post. Something along the line of – I bet there are pots of quinoa during the communal meals. 🙂

  • Daybreaker1 December 19, 2011, 4:15 pm

    Well – as someone who lives in Daybreak, I’d like to thank whoever wrote the original post. But I need to point out that it is very definitely not like living in a dorm. We each have our own apartment/condo/unit and you could be entirely self-sufficient and hole up in your own apartment if you like. Although we have a shared laundry room, there is hookup for a washer and dryer in every unit. But the whole point of living in co-housing is in fact to spent time with other people, to share the challenges and the joys of everyday living. Some of us garden together and we all help keep the place running (no paid staff). Several here are indeed retired – and some of us who sure as hell wish we were retired. We have folks in their 70s and we have young families and everything in between; most of us are in our 40s and 50s. There are definitely lots of advantages to living in co-housing – you feel connected with your neighbors. We help each other – rides to the airport, taking care of pets when someone travels, and yes, being there when someone is sick or has some other kind of setback. We have impromptu get-togethers (“hey, who wants to go for a walk, or for pizza?” as well as planned, shared meals. We still have quite a few units for sale – and we also are happy to have renters. We’d love to have you come to a social and tour and meet us! Check out http://www.daybreakcohousing.org for dates!!

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2011, 9:47 pm

      Thanks for your comment! I should have made it clear about the staffing situation. I’ll fix that now.
      It’s great to hear from one of the residence and I’ll also update the main post with your comment. Daybreak sounds like a great community and I would love to visit someday. I’ll plan on coming by in the summer. We are way too busy at the moment with our baby and jobs.

  • Shaun @ Smart Family Finance December 19, 2011, 6:06 pm

    I’d have to look more into it, but my thinking would be that if you are sharing a large space, shouldn’t it be cheaper? It seems like a premium in order to get a community feel. Wouldn’t it be nice if communities just had that kind of community(ness) for free?

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2011, 8:52 pm

      I think that’s what we had in the old days, but that community(ness) has diminished over the years. Perhaps it is because we are such a mobile society now.

  • Laura December 19, 2011, 7:33 pm

    Thanks for posting this and exposing more people to the benefits of cohousing. I live at Daybreak Cohousing and love it. I have owned multiple condos in my life and never had the interaction with neighbors that I do here. That’s because the people who come to Daybreak and become members are clear that they want to participate. We have about three community meals a week now. It isn’t required. There is a sign-up book and you only sign up for the meals you want. Tomorrow we will celebrate (a tiny bit early) the winter solstice with a special meal, and afterwards stories around the fire. We have young and old here: retired people and two-year-olds. Cohousing has advantages for all ages, and if you want urban and Portland, Oregon, then Daybreak Cohousing is the right place.

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2011, 9:50 pm

      Have a great winter solstice! I think cohousing is great for all ages too. As you can see from the comments though, many people are resisting the idea a little bit. Your community sounds great to me though and we’ll have to visit sometime.

  • youngandthrifty December 20, 2011, 1:06 am

    This is a brilliant idea and I haven’t heard of it (at least here in Canada anyway).

    I wonder if there is anything in Canada.

    For something like this, I would be surprised if the government doesn’t help subsidize this to some extent, because it is so beneficial and can be so cost effective for the health care system.

    One of the key determinants of health is social support, and with something like this in terms of housing, the social support is there!

    Do you guys have Co-Op housing in the US? I know Daybreak sounds more intense and well supported than Co-Op housing, but I wonder if its somewhat similar.

    • retirebyforty December 20, 2011, 11:13 am

      There must be some kind of co-housing in Canada. It seems like a Canadian thing to do anyway. 🙂
      OK, I googled it and there are quite a few in Canada. Check it out.
      I don’t know much about co-op housing. It seems there are a few according to Wiki, but I haven’t heard much about it.

  • My University Money December 20, 2011, 5:52 am

    It sounds like a great idea, it takes away the stigma of “retirement home” and strikes a nice balance between independent living and community participation. Hopefully, as the concept catches on, competition will lower the prices a bit.

    • retirebyforty December 20, 2011, 11:09 am

      The price is a bit on the high side. It would be great if they can do this at a more affordable level.

  • SB @ One Cent At A Time December 20, 2011, 1:01 pm

    With all due respect, retirement to me is having a nice house in a secluded area and with a nice view of ocean/mountain,lake forest etc. A place to reflect on life and do things never done during work life.

    • retirebyforty December 20, 2011, 2:21 pm

      That sounds pretty nice, but I’d probably choose the city for retirement. We would be bored out of our mind in a tranquil setting like that, but who knows. We love living in the city, but maybe would change our mind when we get older. It will be tough to give up all the amenities though.

  • Jillian Brooks December 20, 2011, 2:56 pm

    Let me be the first to mention senior cohousing. While most cohousing communities are intergenerational, senior cohousing tends to be a 55+ community of very active adults. McCamant and Durrett Architects wrote the book on cohousing “Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities” and “Senior Cohousing: A community Approach to Independent Living.” They have a senior cohousing project under construction in Grass Valley, CA called Wolf Creek Lodge. I can’t stress how much knowledge and experience this team has!

    • retirebyforty December 20, 2011, 4:26 pm

      At our age, I think I’d prefer the inter-generation option. Maybe when we’re older and the kid is out of the house, we’d change our mind. I think having a diverse age groups would be more interesting though.

  • Financial God December 20, 2011, 7:09 pm

    This is neat! I haven’t seen too many of these around. I was looking at a retirement home as my grandmother gets older and nears her 80s.

    • retirebyforty December 21, 2011, 9:22 am

      I think this kind of arrangement is good for someone in their 60s. When you’re 80, you probably need a bit more help and probably don’t want to be tie down in a long term real estate deal. I suppose it depends on how healthy you are.

  • Jillian Brooks December 21, 2011, 9:41 am

    My 93 year old landlady/housemate seems to like it just fine. Having me and another renter around gives her kids a sense of security since we’re there when she needs assistance, whether it’s going up and down the stairs or getting a ride to the grocery store. She moved into this nascent community when it was first built, she was 88.

    -Nevada City Cohouser

  • Little House December 21, 2011, 10:58 am

    I think I’d really like this kind of living arrangement, especially during retirement. However, my significant other would hate it. One of his last comments to me when I mentioned a “communal” type of living arrangement was he only wanted to see his neighbors through binoculars! I think I’d enjoy this style of living and he’d despise it. 😉

  • CoHouser March 24, 2013, 7:33 pm

    My family and I recently moved into cohousing in Madison and our experience has been that it’s great for young families. There’s an indoor play room full of toys and climbing equipment (so our smallish condo is much cleaner than it would be otherwise.) There are two outdoor gyms and lots of kids to run around with and learn from. The communal meals are great, because both parents can actually eat while baby gets handed around to various willing community members (mostly grandmas who don’t see their grandkids too much.) Our building is eco-friendly, downtown/walking to everything, and has guest rooms – so people don’t have to stay right *in* our unit, but also don’t have to pay for a hotel. It’s been awesome. I’d encourage you to take another look!

    • retirebyforty March 25, 2013, 10:56 pm

      Thanks for your input. Co housing sounds great for young families. I’ll have to take another look.

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