Thursday, December 12, 2013

Housing Options for Seniors

Since most of my mystery novels feature older characters, I’m interested in topics that affect the older populations. Because of this interest, I volunteered to be on the Boulder County Aging Advisor Council a number of years ago. This year our council has been focusing on the topic of senior housing.

At our most recent meeting, we convened as Silver Sage, a senior cohousing project in Boulder. There are sixteen units built around a courtyard, ten market price and six affordable housing units. It’s an interesting combination of individual homes with a shared facility for events and some meals.

One of the goals of our council is to help elders age in place in our communities. Rather than being forced into congregate housing options, it’s important to have a variety of other options available as well. The cohousing model provides the benefits of aging in place among peers who support each other. It’s a great option for people who like working in community. This is not for everyone, and other seniors want to stay in their separate houses as they get older.

Another important option is a variation on shared housing. Picture a widow who lives in a five bedroom house, who needs financial assistance to pay property tax and maintenance. If she is open to the idea, she could rent out four rooms to other widows. They all benefit, those that are looking for a reasonably priced rental living option and the property owner who is looking for a means of offsetting expenses. Unfortunately, in many communities there are zoning restrictions on the number of unrelated adults who can live in one house. These types of restrictions need to be revisited and opened up for more flexible living arrangements.

One of the concerns is the number of parking spaces required if people share houses. Five older people in one house, some of whom may no longer drive, is no worse that a family with three teenagers and five cars. Solutions can be found. It takes looking into alternatives and providing a breath of solutions for senior housing.

No comments: