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A Brighter Future for Seniors with Group Homes?

New housing arrangements are becoming more popular for seniors.

By Paul R. Brian

Over 2.1 million Americans live in nursing homes or assisted care facilities, but many more still prefer to stay at home and be cared for by family members or hire in-home caregivers if necessary. In fact, around half of Americans over 85 live with family in multi-generational households or independently with in-home care available. However, a third and growing category of senior citizens are choosing to live in independent group homes or cohousing environments where in-house care is available if needed. This can be an excellent in-between option for some elderly people, allowing them to retain freedom and mobility while still having care available and a convivial communal living environment. This arrangement has many key benefits for seniors who don’t need acute medical care.

Are Nursing Homes on the Way Out?

America’s senior population is skyrocketing. In 1900, just 4% of the population was 65 or older; today, that number stands at 17%. In the next decade-and-a-half, the senior population is expected to rise to 80.8 million, or around 24%.

Alongside this massive growth in the senior population, there has been a rise in Baby Boomers who want alternatives to nursing homes or who don’t qualify for help in funding to live in a nursing home. For many, this means staying at home with family, including adult children, or living with their spouse or even alone with hired in-home care if needed.

For a growing segment of the senior population, however, living in small or medium-sized group homes and cohousing communities are becoming attractive options. For many seniors these are better than living alone or in an industrial-scale nursing facility. As Senior Living Organization states: “Group homes offer older adults the best of two worlds: a close-knit home environment paired with the social opportunities and assistance you’d find at a larger assisted living facility.”

Benefits of Group Homes and Cohousing for Seniors

Senior cohousing and group homes are a form of intentional living where friends, colleagues, or even strangers get together and decide to live their golden years together. In cohousing, residents own their own units, often several dozen, sharing expenses for landscaping and maintaining the overall property. Residents mutually support each other when needed and interact on a regular basis in shared common areas.

Independent group homes may have 10 to 30 people or more and operates similarly, with residents sharing common areas and having their own room and bathroom space. Varieties of cohousing and group home options are being put into practice around the country, and construction of senior-oriented units and homes is becoming a priority for a growing portion of the real estate sector as it responds to market demand.

As Matthews Real Estate Investment Services notes: “It is estimated that more than 800,000 additional units of senior housing will need to be added in the U.S. by 2030.”

Understanding Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers are roughly divided into three categories: those who are fully independent and not in need of daily or weekly medical care, those who are partly independent and in need of daily or weekly medical care, and those who are unable to live unassisted and require daily medical assistance.

Those who require acute assistance will continue to seek out nursing homes and acute care facilities, including specialized facilities for those with Alzheimer’s or other degenerative illnesses. But for those who are still partly or fully independent, senior cohousing and group home arrangements will continue to grow in popularity. With America aging, those who have the option to live out their days in a shared environment may often find it more agreeable than remaining home alone, feeling like a burden on their family, or heading to a nursing home where their liberty and mobility are curtailed.

By Paul R. Brian

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