Increasingly popular: College-linked communities, located on or near campuses. The extent of connection varies by school. Some allow residents to take classes and use facilities. Although popular with alumni, a degree isn't a pre-req. Some are continuing-care communities, meaning residents can access additional services should they need more help.
Co-housing and intentional communities
More grassroots are intentional communities: groups of people who choose to live together and share resources on the basis of common values. These aren't necessarily age-restrictive.
Two increasingly popular types are green retirement communities, which focus on sustainable construction and a green lifestyle, and cohousing, where residents have their own homes but share kitchens, dining spaces and outdoor spaces.
"Co-housing provides the privacy we've all become accustomed to with the community we seek," says Karin Hoskin of Cohousing USA, a nonprofit that supports co-housing communities.
The Foundation for Intentional Community keeps an online directory and many resources for finding and forming such communities.
Manufactured housing community
Some newer "senior mobile home communities" are age-restricted and feature community centers, pickleball courts and more. Even upscale versions tend to be more affordable than fixed-site homes. Some communities are land-lease, meaning you own the home and rent the land it sits on.
Some commercial groups maintain listings, such as Active Adult Living.
Continuing care retirement communities
Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) are independent dwellings that double as assisted living and skilled nursing care as more help is required. (Confusingly, in the senior housing market these are sometimes referred to as "independent living.")
CCRCs often have wellness centers, activities, events and transportation. Residents pay an entrance fee (often in the tens of thousands) as well as monthly or other fees depending on the level of care needed.
This arrangement is ideal for those who find it appealing to remain within the larger community they're familiar with even if they become sick or frail. Here are the questions to ask yourself before signing onto a CCRC.
Assisted living is residential housing that emphasizes privacy and independence while providing 24-hour access to help with certain everyday activities, like meals or transportation.
Assisted living best serves those who may find managing a household too taxing but don't need as much personal assistance and want to live in a safe environment near other people. A care plan, including some medical and personal care, is tailored to individual needs.
Residential care homes (sometimes called board-and-care homes) are smaller assisted living facilities -- often in an actual house. The Green House model has been used to create hundreds of these settings, with private rooms and outdoor spaces.
You can also look for members of the Eden Alternative Registry, which emphasizes individualized care in "life affirming" environments.
The Eldercare locator provides the local lay of the land for assisted living and other care-specific options.
Care community options
Many facilities provide a stepped-up level of skilled nursing care and support. These are intended for those who are frail or ill and require 24-hour care. Few people plan ahead to live in this style of housing.
At nursing homes, care is supervised by a medical doctor (who is not typically on site, though a registered nurse may be).
Skilled nursing or rehabilitation care
A shorter-term housing provided at nursing homes or stand-alone facilities, this is for those who have been discharged from a hospital or have a chronic illness and require more even care services than is typically provided at a nursing home, such as rehabilitation therapy.
This round-the-clock residential care for people with Alzheimer's or other dementias may be located within a dedicated wing of a nursing home or in a stand-alone facility.
Care is provided by those with some training in memory disorders and typically includes activities like art or reminiscence therapy, in a secure environment for those who wander or forget where they live.
Whether in stand-alone facilities or located within skilled nursing centers, this care emphasizes quality of life for those with a terminal illness. Here's how to choose hospice care.
The transient life. Move from place to place using an RV, boat, or cruise ship as your full-time home. A newer example: Storylines residential cruise ship.
Retiring abroad. The trend jumped by 40% from 2007 to 2017, motivated by a mix of cost-savings and adventure.
Long-term voluntarism: While some kind of home base is eventually necessary, options that include long-term housing include seasonal national park work and The Peace Corps.
This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org, (c) 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.
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