If you and your clients going to be alive 30 or 40 years from now, will you want to live where you’re living now?

I suspect not, and it’s not just because many of us will want to move to a warmer climate or get a smaller place that doesn’t have a lawn that needs mowing. Sure, they might be factors in your decision to move. But equally so will be the emergence of homes and communities that offer features, advantages and opportunities you’ll embrace. Let’s explore them.

Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities
My parents found themselves living in a retirement community even though they hadn’t moved from their home of 40 years. Mom and Dad bought their home in 1957 in one of those sprawling new bedroom communities of the postwar era. With a mortgage provided by the G.I. Bill, they were able to attain the American dream: a home of their own, a 2,000 square foot, split-level house on a postage-stamp-sized lot in a brand new neighborhood. They were in their early 30s, with two kids and a dog (I wouldn’t arrive for another two years), just like every other family in the neighborhood. There was a brand new elementary school down the street. A new swim club, too.

Fast-forward 40 years. My parents were still living in that house. Almost all their neighbors were still living in their houses, too. But instead of having trucks delivering reusable cloth diapers to the moms and soft-serve ice cream to the kids, Meals on Wheels delivered food to elderly homeowners who lacked the mobility to shop for food or cook. The local swim club had adults-only hours, and the elementary school was a senior center.

Without intending it, and without even knowing it, my parents found themselves living in a NORC (naturally occurring retirement community). You might, too. Or you might decide to move to a neighborhood that offers services needed and desired by people in their second or third half-century.

In my parents’ case, they didn’t live in their NORC for long. Dad had shifted his company’s business activities to Las Vegas, so instead of commuting a couple thousand miles every couple of weeks (as he had found himself doing for a few years), my parents decided to relocate.
And they chose a new home in a—you guessed it—over-55 community. This is another kind of NORC, and they are much more common. Rather than evolving to serve seniors, these communities are designed for seniors from their inception.

Over-55 communities and NORCs house 36% of U.S. seniors, according to AARP. They offer a variety of services, including yard work, household chores, transportation services, social programs—even health-care management. Monthly dues range from $100 to $1,000, in addition to the cost of the home itself. Some communities are apartment buildings; others feature mansions.

But saying you built a community on purpose isn’t the same as saying you’ve built an intentional community. That is something entirely different.

Intentional Communities
Intentional communities are for people who identify with one another. The affinity could be based on any commonality—geography; history; vision; purpose; philosophy; or common social, economic and political interests. They are designed for sustainable living, personal and cultural transformation and social evolution. And they’ve been around a long time: The Fellowship for Intentional Community, which provides support services to intentional communities, has roots dating to 1937. As of 2016, ic.org lists 2,234 intentional communities in 78 countries, including 1,546 in the United States.

“Co-housing” has a misleading name, because it refers to an entire community, not just one house.

When you buy a house in a co-housing development, the home itself is yours. It will probably be in a cluster and small (700 to 1,200 square feet), with cars parked on the perimeter of the community. The largest structure is the common house, which typically features a communal kitchen and dining area, as well as living rooms and parlors, a game room, library, gym, media room, workshop and hobby/craft room. Some even have guest rooms. Keeping the homes small and the common house large encourages residents to socialize.

When these units are new, buyers participate in designing the community’s grounds and features. Unlike in typical apartment and condominium buildings, there is no resident manager; instead, the residents work together to maintain the community.

At this writing, there are 160 co-housing communities (of which 28 are restricted to seniors) in 25 states. To learn more, go to cohousing.org, the website of the Cohousing Association of the United States.

Shared Housing
This is defined as elders (usually unrelated) living together for companionship. They typically share expenses.

If you’re having trouble envisioning this, simply recall The Golden Girls. In the TV sitcom, Dorothy (played by Bea Arthur) lives in a house with her spunky mother Sophia (Estelle Getty); the sex-crazed Southern belle Blanche (Rue McClanahan); and ditzy Rose (Betty White), a Norwegian-American from St. Olaf, Minn. The girls support one another financially and emotionally, and enjoy friendships and relationships that only roommates can develop.

Shared housing is very common, accounting for about 4 million U.S. households, according to AARP and the National Shared Housing Resource Center.

Before You Cohabit
If your clients are going to cohabit with anyone other than a spouse, they should obtain the services of an attorney who can draft a contract stipulating the legal and financial rights, responsibilities and penalties associated with the arrangement. Details will vary based on who owns the property; who pays for main-tenance, repairs, capital improvements, taxes and insurance; and even who has the right to use shared facilities and under what circumstances. The agreement should also stipulate what happens if a member of the household fails to live up to his or her obligations.

Ecovillages are for people concerned about the environment. Named by the United Nations as one of the world’s 100 Best Practices for Sustainable Living in 1998, ecovillage residents grow as much of their own food as possible, create homes using local materials, operate renewable energy systems, protect nature and safeguard wilderness areas. Many communities even create their own currencies, which helps residents support one another’s small businesses. The Global Ecovillage Network lists hundreds of ecovillages worldwide.

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