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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rainy Day People Project - Going Forward

We're beginning to hear from people interested in the Rainy Day People Project.  If you'd like to join, please contact us using the contact box to the right.  I will be posting a series of short blogs.  You can respond via the comments section. If you'd like to contribute blog entries, contact me to find out how.  The project will take some time to pull together, but will follow this sequence:

  1. Discussion Phase:  This will take place on this weblog.  We will recruit interested individuals, experts and get a sense of what a community like this will look like.
  2. Organization Phase:  During this part we will look at funding the project, finding participants who will commit to the project, we'll create a budget, locate a property, prepare grants, find contractors, an architect (I've actually got a good one - perfect for this), create a nonprofit homeowner's cooperative and do all the ground work.
  3. Funding Phase:  Put together the funding, start accounting system, set up bank accounts, hire director, contractor and buy the land.
  4. Construction Phase:  Hire general contractor, begin construction work on community center, manager's offices and grounds.  Begin building cottages as homeowners obtain their funding.  Build rental units as income generators for the community as the project continues. 
  5. Population Phase:  Begin move in.  This phase will overlap with the construction phase as cottages are completed and families begin moving in.
  6. Operations & Development Phase:  Begin setting up community support services, recreational activities, maintenance and homeowner's co-op governance. Also continues to work on improving the community, expanding operations if desired by community members and even creating new co-housing projects for other groups.
We're serious about creating this experiment in supportive co-housing for people with bipolar disorder and other disabling conditions.  If you'd like to join us, follow this website, comment, submit blog entries and share your ideas with the group.  We're going to use the more linear blog approach so we can manage the discussion and don't lose good ideas.  Periodically, we'll do wrap up blog entries synthesizing the group's ideas for inclusion in the overall development plan.  In this way we can benefit from the group's collective brain power.

I'm excited about this.  Welcome aboard.

Tom King - Project Leader

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Rainy Day People Cooperative:

Not a Commune - a Community
Co-housing for people with bipolar disorder.
Problem:
1.      Bipolar disorder often becomes more difficult to handle as people with the disorder age.  For many the bumps and kicks of everyday life gradually overwhelm his or her emotional coping resources.
  • The emotional ups and downs associated with the disease take a toll on loved ones, on the financial health of the family and on the community that surrounds the person coping with the disease. 
  •  Long term care solutions for those with severe bipolar tend to isolate the individual from spouses, parents, loved ones and the community about them.
  • The necessity of protecting a loved one with bipolar can severely limit the ability of caregivers to find and hold jobs successfully and can threaten intact families with bipolar.
  • To delay intervention in cases of severe bipolar disorder can lead to the destruction of families that might have been saved intact had the families been better established or financially independent before things got out of hand.
A Proposed Solution
Rather than wait for the wheels to come off the wagon, I propose creating a co-housing project especially designed for people with bipolar disorder and their families. The community design would take into account the needs of people with bipolar, allow their caregivers to remain with them and provide a permanent supportive environment for residents for the rest of their lives.  The community would be designed to become independent and self-sustaining over a short time and offer not only emotional and spiritual support, but would also provide affordable housing, employment and therapeutic recreation. First we need to look at what co-housing is and how it’s unique design can help us set up safe communities for our loved ones with bipolar and those who care for them.
How does co-housing work?
Co-housing is a fascinating new concept in community development.  Groups of like-minded individuals purchase a large and attractive tract of land and develop a shared community there.  Similar to the way some condominiums and townhouses are done, members of the community purchase small cottages built around a commons area and community center.  The commons provides places to walk, to garden, to play games and exercise. The community center provides places where families may gather, where concerts and parties are held, activities conducted, worship services convened, where hobby groups can meet and community business can be conducted.  There is often a fully-equipped central kitchen in the center. Some communities even cook regular meals for the residents, provide distribution centers for Meals on Wheels, set up food pantries and other social services for the community.  Many of these are senior communities, but others are designed as artist communities, communities of workers from some local industry or even extended family groups.
Proposed Structure for RDPC
  •  Rainy Day People Cooperative would be organized as a membership-based not for profit organization.
  • A board of directors consisting of mental health professionals, residents, founding donors and families of permanent residents of the community will be recruited. This goard will govern the overall organization.  Each community’s members will act as its own local governing body for issues concerning that community.
  • A tract of land would be searched out and funding raised for the purchase of the land outright if possible.  This would greatly reduce the community’s initial operating cost.
  • A core group of potential residents would be identified. The board of directors would help identify potential candidates.  Candidates should be a mix of low, middle and upper class residents to allow the community to operate with a sustainable budget.
  •  Policies and Procedures for the nonprofit and operating guidelines will be drawn up and approved by the board to insure the health and sustainability of the project and to create a healthy community for its residents.
  • Designs for the community would be drawn up and submitted to the board and founding residents for approval.
  • A sustainability plan will be developed utilizing private foundation, state, local and federal housing funds to support low income residents.  Additional funds will be raised through grants, special events, contributions by residents, their families, sliding scale membership fees and money-making enterprises conducted by residents and supported by the RDPC.
  • Funds will be raised to begin construction of the commons areas.  Residents who will be purchasing cottages will begin construction as they are ready to proceed. Some units will be purchased by the nonprofit as rental units as money can be raised or our budget grows to support the cost. A project director’s cottage and office will be constructed near the commons area construction. 
  • Once ready for move-in the project director will move in and direct the operations of the community from on-site.  See the director’s job description in the appendix.
  • The director shall be the only full time staff and will live on-site in a suitable office/residence. Various landscape, food prep and maintenance services may be hired as needed or requested by the community members, however, much of the care of the community will be in the hands of volunteers. The director shall supervise and coordinate volunteer groups charged with some cleanup, landscaping, simple maintenance and neighborhood watch activities. The director will closely attend to upkeep of the community to keep maintenance costs as low as possible.
  • Transportation resources will be arranged for residents who cannot drive. This may be provided by a community operated van if desired by members, through access to bus lines and other public transportation, through community ride-sharing or other means.
  •  The director will facilitate partnerships and act as liaison with social service agencies, government agencies and community or faith-based nonprofit organizations to provide support services or programs within the community.
  • Quarterly community meetings will acquaint community members with the state of the budget, issues raised and addressed and challenges facing the community. The quarterly meetings will provide members an opportunity to help plan the activities and projects undertaken on behalf of the community. If the members want a shared garden tool shed, they will find money in the budget; make decisions about raising funds or making economies to afford such a new project. The meetings will also provide an opportunity for members to come up with new ideas for activities, services or programs and help plan how to implement those ideas.
  • The community, once filled, will provide a clearing house to encourage and support other groups in establishing
Conclusion:
Creativity is one of the hallmarks of individuals with bipolar disorder. This type of community structure allows individuals struggling with this disease to find a place for themselves in the world where they are not alone. It allows spouses or partners to remain with their loved ones or parents with a deeply troubled child.  It provides ready access to help finding jobs or creating their own businesses. It makes available support groups, recreation opportunities and financial supports needed to provide them a safe stable place in the world.  It allows them to contribute their own brand of creativity to the community through recreation, work and community service so they may become participants in their community rather than mere recipients of community tolerance and charity.
Finding the funding, recruiting members and managing the whole thing will be challenging, but no more so than the challenge faced by caregivers and individuals with bipolar disorder in coping with an often unfriendly world.  The community we create will not to be a cloister, but a rather a home – a safe little village in the old style where everyone knows everyone and everyone looks out for each other. A place from which its members might go forth and conquer, knowing there’s a safe place to retreat to if it goes badly out there.
Co-housing is a lifestyle uniquely suited to the creative temperaments that go with bipolar disorder. If the community nurtures that urge to create, provides opportunities to express that creativity and structures itself to support and protect it, we will ultimately create a model for other sustainable small communities for individuals that have difficult surviving in large unstructured settings.
For information contact:
Tom King
903-363-7218
 
Appendix A
Project Director Job Description
Qualifications:
  • 3 years experience as director of a nonprofit organization
  • Experience with nonprofit cost accounting style bookkeeping
  • Experience providing therapeutic recreational programs
  • Experience maintaining houses, landscaping and grounds
  • Experience working with individuals with behavioral health issues and disabilities.
  • 5 years experience in social service settings
  • Bachelor’s Degree in social service, psychology or related field or Bachelor’s degree plus related work experience
  • Experience managing public relations
  • Experience raising funds, writing grants and managing special events
  • Experience working with individuals with bipolar disorder
Duties
  • Manage day to day operations of the facility, keep up with maintenance, record keeping, community member relations and logistics.
  • Work with the bookkeeper/CPA to provide financial data and obtain reports needed by the board of directors to assure the financial health and viability of the project
  • Develop new sources of funding, write grants and conduct special fund-raising events to support the community.
  • Assist residents in finding jobs, creating money-making businesses of their own and obtaining funding to support them in the community.
  • Create and manage an on-site food pantry to provide assistance for residents and members of the surrounding community as an outreach and volunteer opportunity for residents.
  • Conduct community meetings to develop strategic plans for the future of the community, to address issues that crop up, to clarify existing policies and to plan activities and community events.
  • Collect rents, membership fees and other monies and deposit those funds in the organization’s banking account. 
  • Approve and sign checks for paying bills, fees and expenses for the community with the approval of the board president or treasurer.  Most payments will be disbursed by the accounting office hired to manage the books and provide annual reports for tax purposes.
  • Manage on-site kitchen according to community set policy. Insure that the kitchen and cooking/cleaning procedures meet local health codes.
  • Obtain annual health, fire and safety inspections per local requirements for all facilities.
  •  Set up and support on-site group therapy sessions as needed and requested by residents and help create supports for caregivers within the community.
  • Plan 4-8 community activities per month with an emphasis on therapeutic activities that promote physical and mental growth especially for those with bipolar disorder.
  • Manage grow box garden spot assignments, tool checkout and help residents learn how to do grow box gardening.
  • Encourage physical exercise through community activities and maintenance of attractive and accessible walking trails and park areas.
  • Develop agreements with utility or service providers that are of benefit to community members.
  • Maintain a monthly community newsletter, develop promotional and marketing materials, recruit new community members until all available homes are built and occupied. 
  • Develop new co-housing groups and projects for bipolar families as waiting lists make it evident we have enough to create a new community.
  • Facilitate partnerships with social service agencies, government agencies, private companies and community or faith-based nonprofit organizations to provide support services or programs within the community.  Act as liaison with such organizations, vendors or providers.
  • Develop transportation resources for transportation challenged community members. This may include working with bus lines to create nearby bus stops, creating ride-share resources with other community members or purchasing and operating a community van (this will be determined and financed by community members if it is done)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Options for Boomers Seeking to Age In Place

© 2011 by Tom King

I'm a boomer and proud of it. Some 75 million of my generation are approaching what our parents called “The Golden Years”. Well, we've seen what our parents and grandparents have gone through during their own “Golden” years and, frankly, a lot of us don't think that winding up in a nursing home could be described as “golden”. Yet, for many of our seniors, that has been seen as an inevitable consequence of aging.

Conventional Long-Term Care Sequence

Over the past half century, a conventional long-term health care track has been to move from home to some form of senior housing to assisted-living to nursing home care. This model emphasizes a reactive approach to health care for seniors. As health breaks down, the senior moves to ever more restrictive and intrusive environments. Often this encourages feelings of helplessness and loss of control. These emotions have been shown to lead to depression and increased incidences of physical illness in senior patient.

Boomers and “Conventional” Sequences

My generation is looking at approaching retirement with a little less submissive attitude. Our parents kind of spoiled us. They wanted their babies lives to be better than their own and, as a result, we're used to getting what we want. And what we want from retirement is to live in our homes and do what we want to do. We read Dylan Thomas in high school. We have no intention of going “quietly into that good night.”
An AARP survey determined that 80% of seniors want to stay at home. This approach is called “aging in place” and, not only does it appeal to aging boomers, but it also makes good financial sense. A University of Missouri study found that the emotional benefits of remaining in a familiar community and receiving supportive health services at home prevented most people from having to eventually relocate to a nursing home.
The Missouri study analyzed total care costs for individuals following an aging in place strategy over four years. The costs for living and health care were far less than those for assisted-living and nursing home services. As an added bonus, subjects aging in place reported improved mental and physical health outcomes over their peers following a more traditional track.

The coming new crop of seniors tend to be more health-conscious, more physically active and socially engaged. They prefer to plan their own future rather than follow a course charted by someone else. They have no intention of waiting till their children have that inevitable meeting down at the I-HOP to decide “what to do about Dad”.

The Aging In Place Model
The aging in place (AIP) model emphasizes provision of services and care in the home to meet the increasing needs of seniors. This not only prevents the necessity of moving to higher levels of care, but also promotes mental, physical and social health. The AIP model also emphasizes preventative health care strategies like proper nutrition, exercise and socialization which have been shown to be effective at reducing illness and injury in seniors.

The Cost of Leaving Home

Leaving home has always been traumatic for aging Americans. Many work all their lives to build and pay for their dream home. They become comfortable with their surroundings and their neighbors. They have powerful memories, a sense of independence, dignity and security. Owning your own home supports a sense of control over your own life. Seniors, forced to move from their homes, often lose that sense of control. There are several solutions for successfully aging in place.

Individual Planning

With the help of home health services, Internet-based supports like on-line groceries and supplies, security monitoring, communication and companion services, senior can obtain a wide variety of supportive services that will enable them to live independently. This requires careful financial planning. You'll need money to make modifications to your home to meet your accessibility requirements, insurance to cover long term home health services and a human support system made up of family, friends, medical and attendant caregivers.

Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities

A naturally occurring retirement community is a neighborhood where residents have, over time, aged together as friends and neighbors. The community may be an apartment building or a street of single family home, an old development or houses bound by naturally occurring boundaries. As residents stay and age, they band together to seek help in maintaining a high quality of life in the old neighborhood. By developing an organized community council, the neighbors can obtain help, access to services and often city support to aid community members who need assistance to remain in their homes. An estimated 27% of all seniors live in such communities. Fair Housing laws allow for communities with 80% of residents over age 55, to adopt age-restriction zoning policies. Neighborhoods with 100% of residents over age 100 can also be formed, but these are more rare.

Naturally occurring retirement communities used to have to offer “significant amenities and services” in order to be age-restricted. This is no longer required, but most such communities do use their legal advantages to offer amenities like transportation, recreation, parks, security or health-care services.

Planned Communities

Planned communities are developed by health care companies, nonprofit organizations or real estate developers. Many are apartment complexes or gated retirement communities and offer amenities and services in exchange for homeowner's or association fees. Such communities are often quite nice, but they are, after all, planned by the property developer. Often residents find themselves paying for amenities they never use, services they have no need for. It is important that you check the community thoroughly for things like accessibility. Residents have found, after spending their life savings for a condo, apartment, cottage or house in a gated community that developers didn't build streets wide enough for para-transit buses for residents who lose their ability to drive. Seniors have found themselves playing “Dodge-'em” in the parking lots because the designer left out sidewalks in the plan. Residents of one senior housing community I know of, has to call para-transit in order to get from their front door to the grocery store even though they can see the store from their porches. Nobody thought to put in a sidewalk and curb cuts when they built the place.

Deliberate Communities

Finally, a new concept in senior housing is the resident-designed community. The way it works is, a group of older individuals band together to create for themselves, not a dream home, but a dream community – a place they would like to live in with people with whom they enjoy associating. The group works together with a realtor, architect and AIP professionals to create a plan for a neighborhood that facilitates aging in place. The group buys a piece of property and builds their individual homes or cottages around a central commons like medieval villages used to. They work with an architect who understands principles of universal design and how to build to facilitate aging in place. The group decides what amenities they want to have and what features they don't want and these are built into the commons area. Homes are designed so that features or modifications that support health-care needs, provide accessibility or improve safety either already exist or can be inexpensively added.

The Deliberate Neighborhood, also called co-housing, is a unique type of housing driven, not by outside designers or developers, but by residents themselves. There are six characteristics of co-housing communities.
  1. The process of designing the community is driven by the residents themselves. Although the community may be initiated by a developer, the residents of a well-designed co-housing community will involve residents throughout the development process at all stages. If this doesn't happen, the community is not true co-housing.
  2. The site plan is designed to encourage a sense of community. Private cottages usually cluster around a central open common space. Front porches face the commons and pedestrian ways with automobiles parked along the outside of the neighborhood. The intention of the layout is to draw residents toward the shared spaces and encourage socialization among neighbors.
  3. The residences are designed with simplicity and efficiency of space usage, energy consumption and maintenance in mind. A central commons area usually includes a large kitchen and dining area, sitting areas, a laundry and whatever other facilities and amenities the community desires. This may include gardens, libraries, crafts rooms, playgrounds, a spa, pool or even guest rooms. Some resident groups leave large areas of undeveloped woodland around the edges of the property to encourage birds and wildlife.
  4. Homeowner's groups in co-housing communities have a loosely structured system of governance. Decision-making is non-hierarchical. Generally, those who have a burden to lead or contribute in some way tend to adopt roles in the community that fit their talents. Decisions are reached by general consensus. Some groups formalize voting and governance rules if that becomes necessary, but generally these kinds of communities operate more along the lines of a “good old boy” network.
  5. Management of the communities is performed by the residents themselves. They share work, participate in preparing common meals if the group decides to have regular communal meals and they meet together as needed to address problems or create rules and policies. People tend to take on jobs they are good at.
  6. All the members of the community manage their own finances. The community generally charges dues or homeowner's fees to maintain facilities and may even hire someone to do specific tasks like maintenance or tilling up the garden, mowing the grass or repainting the gazebo. Often the community will hire its own members for these sorts of things. More often, such jobs are considered a contribution to the shared responsibilities. Others take on flower beds or cleaning the kitchen. These communities really do share the care and upkeep of the neighborhood.
Co-housing communities lend themselves particularly well to urban or rural, suburban and semi-rural settings. Co-housing neighborhoods can be built close to shopping facilities, churches or recreational areas – virtually anywhere the neighbors want to build. Neighbors in the community watch out for each other, helping with neighborhood security, sharing transportation, food preparation or household problems.

The community is designed to facilitate access by health care providers and to provide universal accessibility to all parts of the community. Neighbors also take a more hands-on approach in some cases, helping to monitor the health of other neighbors, their medications and their physical activity. Like villages and extended families of the past, these communities encourage neighbors to depend on one another for things they would ordinarily pay professional health-care workers and caregivers to provide. For individuals and couples with a desire for an active and rewarding retirement, co-housing may be just the thing.

Resources:

Aging In Place

Aging in Place Initiative

National Aging In Place Council

Senior Resource: Aging In Place

Age In Place

Neighbor Works America: Aging in Place

Partners for Livable Communities: Aging In Place Initiative

Physorg: Aging in Place Preserves Seniors' Independence

Co-Housing.org

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Boomers are Coming

Boomer Development aims to meet the housing needs of aging baby boomers, something we think is not being well addressed in the East Texas housing industry. Like selling anything, the point with selling housing designs is to come up with something people want to buy.
Matt Thornhill, a co-founder of an organization called the Boomer Project, says that the generational values specific to boomers are:
  1. Entitlement
  2. Control
  3. Personal gratification
  4. Work Ethic
  5. Optimism
Thornhill blames it on the momentous events that shaped the live of this particular generation. Boomers have a tendency to be spoiled to getting what they want. That sense of entitlement means they are less likely to accept what is offered to them and far more likely to demand that they get just what they want. The explosion in technology and a new business philosophy in America, driven by the likes of Tom Peters and Peter Drucker that emphasizes responsiveness to customer demands, has only reinforced the conviction of boomers that they ought to get what they want with their money.
Boomers learned young, during the upheavals of the 60s and 70s that they could force change if they were stubborn enough to stick by their principles. More than any previous generation, the children of the boomer era have proven less inclined to blindly follow authority or to allow others to control them arbitrarily.
Boomers experimented widely, trying out drugs, fads and philosophies seeking to gratify their personal needs and desires. Whether entirely successful or not, they learned the habit of self-gratification and again, with American business rushing to sell things that gratified the desires of the huge consumer market represented by the boomers, proceeded to spoil us to satisfying our slightest impulses. If we wanted a Coke, we got 6 kinds and 20 brands of cola. We took up coffee and Starbucks offered us a bewildering array of flavors and versions of coffee (at $4 a pop).
The generation that gave us hippies isn't really thought of as particularly hard-working, but if you look closely, you'll find that the boomers carried their parents work ethic to new heights in the 80s and 90s. We boomers pioneered the 80 hour work week, the working lunch and the laptop computer. We carried fat briefcases every where and workaholics were almost more numerous than alcoholics for the first time in history.
Finally, this generation is one of the first to grow up from infancy with the idea firmly implanted that things would always get better. For centuries the world marched along unchanged. Very little improvement was seen in the lot of the ordinary man. Our parents pulled cotton as kids and worked in the fields. They remember a time when a car was a luxury and if you wanted to know something, you hiked to the library. The dizzying rise of technology has convinced our generation that things are always going to get better, faster, smarter and more affordable as time goes on. It's little wonder that we're optimistic.
That accounts for the optimism with which we look ahead. We expect good things for ourselves and we're likely to get it. Most people who make the age of 65 will likely live into their 90s. Advances in medicine will certainly improve the quality of our life as we age. Most of us plan to continue doing some sort of productive work after we retire. At the very least we plan to play hard and live well.
As a result, this generation no longer accepts a long stay in the old folks home as an inevitability. We plan on enjoying our old age. Thornhill* predicts the following as boomer's age.
  1. Boomers will move in and out of retirement. They’ll work in encore jobs, volunteer, and start their own businesses.
  2. Boomers will play a larger role in their healthcare due to the availability of information. They’ll want to be cared for in their homes. Chronic conditions will increase, as will the ways to treat them.
  3. Boomers will live in cities and create new living arrangements such as naturally occurring retirement communities, co-housing, and intergenerational living. Pods, one bedroom temporary structures wired to the main house, will become popular.
  4. Being old will be cool.
  5. Intergenerational living opportunities will be created.
While Boomers could well be considered self-centered, it's not a self-absorbed sort of focus on self. It's more of a “What's in it for me?” approach. Boomers actually do volunteer work more than the previous generations did, mainly because it makes them feel good about themselves rather than from a sense of duty. The implications for housing are obvious.
  1. Boomers won't just accept anything that's offered. They will want features they want and if they don't get it, they'll go elsewhere. And someone else will get their business.
  2. Boomers will increasingly control the nation's money supply and make decisions as to how it gets spent. And marketers will fall all over themselves trying to figure out how to get them to part with their money. This means selling housing to aging Boomers is going to be all about giving them what they wants.
  3. Boomers will want their houses to be as flexible as their lifestyles. They will not be satisfied being limited by their living space.
  4. Boomers will keep up with the latest gadgets and trends better than their parents did. Builders will have to wire, not only houses, but whole communities for the Internet, install wireless systems, satellite, cable, and wireless systems. We Boomers are going to hang on stubbornly to our cool for as long as possible.
  5. Boomers don't like to be alone. We'll bring our kids in with us to help and bribe them to stick around. We'll take in stray grandchildren, dogs and friends. Our homes will have to accommodate that need for flexibility of occupancy.,
Architects and builders will need to listen more closely to their potential clients if we intend to sell house plans and if developers are going to sell new communities to the Boomer generation.
References:

What is "Cohousing"?

And what are it's advantages?
Over the next two decades the United States senior population will jump dramatically. Seniors are expected to make up as much as 20% of the population nation wide with older citizens making up a fourth of the community in states like Florida, Arizona and East Texas that are fast becoming retirement meccas.
Aging and long term care specialist, Liz Taylor, says that “As baby boomers age, our communities will look very different.” As the first waves of boomers retire, we are already seeing a change in the senior “culture” and the expectations they bring with them to retirement.
"American is a young nation about to become old," Taylor warns. For the most part, America's housing industry has done a poor job of anticipating the gray-haired tsunami that is about to roll over them. In East Texas, builders remain stuck in their ways, producing stick frame housing the way they have always done it with little regard for the needs of an aging population.
Horror stories abound of couples who spend their life-savings to buy their dream retirement home on the lake and find themselves having to give them up just a few years later. Most builders have failed to design homes to accommodate the needs of aging homeowners. When age-related injury or disability strikes, homeowners find that doors aren't wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and,the entryways all have steps. Homeowners, already on fixed incomes have to spend money on ramps and bathroom rebuilds that require tens of thousands of dollars in renovation. Too often builder's don't allow room for a wheelchair, roll in showers or even adequate framing to support grab rails and lifts. There are seniors in East Texas who haven't seen parts of their own homes in years because they can't get into some rooms anymore.
Studies show that 90 percent of boomers retire with the expectation that they will age in their homes. Unfortunately, the very design of the homes they are buying and communities they are located in are not created to accommodate graceful aging in place. Subdivisions fail to include walks and curb cuts for pedestrians. Some gated senior communities here in Tyler, have streets that will not accommodate para-transit buses. Residents who lose the ability to drive and cannot afford chauffeurs, are either suddenly home bound or have to roll all the way to the front gate to meet the bus.
Apartment complexes that present themselves as “senior-friendly” often have only one or two supposedly accessible apartments. A recent survey by Freedom Way, a local disability housing initiative found that of 8500 apartments in Tyler, there were fewer than 20 that were fully accessible apartments according to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Despite an ADA requirement that each complex have an accessible apartment available, most were found to be only partially accessible, some with only an extra wide front door and no bathroom accessible features..
To make matters worse, most of these apartments were rented to non-disabled individuals and not reserved for residents with disabilities, even though many of the complex's tenants were, in fact, coping with disabilities and had been on waiting lists for the accessible unit for years.
The city of Tyler is a driver's town. Few city streets offer sidewalks and curb cuts have yet to be fully implemented. The city has a public bus, but individuals in wheelchairs that live more than a block from the bus line must risk their lives on the public street with fast-moving cars in order to get from home to the bus stop. One retirement community is three blocks from a grocery store and shopping center, yet residents who attempt to walk, have to walk in the street up a blind hill on a road with a 35 mile an hour speed limit. I've seen old people in wheel chairs dodging from driveway to driveway till the batteries on their motorized chairs died, leaving them stranded alongside the road. I talked to seniors attending public forums over the years who told me they dreaded the day they became unable to drive because they would be trapped, unable to visit old friends any longer.
Co-housing like Honeysuckle Glen provides an answer to the challenges of aging in place. Honeysuckle Glen would be a small, intimate community of 10 to 40 cottages, owned by the residents and designed to allow for aging in place. Features will include:
  1. The community is resident-owned and governed. It's not assisted-living where a company owns the property and charges you rent and provides “services”. It's your community to run the way you and your neighbors want.
  2. The cottages are small, more energy efficient and fully accessible.
  3. Accessibility features do not have to be installed till needed, but the cottage's framing and floor space insure that any accommodations you need to add can be done quickly and inexpensively.
  4. Communal areas and guest rooms are available on the commons, shared by the neighborhood. This helps reduce the cost of maintaining space you use only intermittently.
  5. Neighbors share the cost of amenities and only add amenities they choose for themselves.
  6. Cottages face inward toward walking paths, park areas and the community center. Everyone has porches to sit on and safe places to walk their dogs.
  7. It's your house. If you want pets, nobody can tell you you can't have one.
  8. Repair costs can be shared as part of a homeowners fee or paid for individually as the community prefers. Services can be as minimal or comprehensive as the community chooses.
  9. Full access to homes in the community by home health workers, emergency services and other medical personnel is designed into the homes.
  10. Cottages can be larger or smaller and accommodate live-in family members or personal assistants.
  11. Homes are open and airy and the very architecture is designed to make coming outside into the fresh air inviting.
  12. The community setting will be the collective decision of the founding residents. It can be near town with easy access to transit, recreation, stores and churches or in a beautiful rural setting with shared access to a van or a pre-arranged link to rural transit. If you want your village on the lake, the neighbors can buy property on the lake. The community will be what the owners want it to be.
  13. Home design will feature energy efficient appliances, extra insulation and even solar panels if you want them installed. The small but airy cottage design means you aren't heating and cooling large unused spaces unnecessarily, but at the same time you aren't boxed in with tiny windows and closed-in spaces.
  14. Cottages can be connected to provide intergenerational spaces if, for instance, older children and parents choose to live together for mutual support or a grandchild moves in to help grandma out. The spaces are adaptable for a variety of family combinations.
Co-housing is a deliberately designed and constructed neighborhood, created by its residents to meet the special needs of aging baby boomers. Boomers, as we shall see, are predicted to be more inclined to tell developers and architects what they want in housing and less likely to simply accept what is available.
More next time about what Baby Boomers will likely want from their communities.
Tom King
References:

Honeysuckle Glen - Cohousing Comes to East Texas


Early Design for an East Texas Cohousing Village
 Honeysuckle Glen will be the first cohousing project in the Tyler/Longview area. Tyler, Texas was qualified as the state's first Certified Retirement City by the East Texas Council of Governments. The certification is given to cities that meet high standards for retiree living including, low crime, pleasant climate, affordable housing, quality health care and abundant recreation and educational opportunities. Tyler consistently ranks lower than the national average in cost of living. Seniors make up almost 25% of the population in East Texas.

In 2010,  Jay Bullock and community senior transportation activist, Tom King began putting together something new for Tyler/Smith County retirement housing - a resident owned and designed village, where residents aged 50 and up would live in their own homes on shared property clustered around a central commons area. This "deliberate neighborhood" is designed to encourage neighbors to share meals, activities and chores, to look out for one another and to share the cost of features like entertaining facilities, gardens and even hot tubs or pools as the community chooses.

If being a part of this return to village life appeals to you, we invite you to contact us at jrbullock703@gmail.com or twayneking@gmail.com about becoming a part of the project at Honeysuckle Glen, a new way to think about your dream retirement home.