New Alternative Housing Arrangements for Seniors

As a growing population confronts the limited options for senior housing, seeking ways to maintain independence without the isolation that can accompany so-called aging in place, various alternatives are gaining footholds.

Shared housing, co-housing and village organizations appeal to those hoping to avoid the high cost and institutional nature of assisted living in nursing homes, or at least stave them off for as long as possible.

Shared housing matches people who have unused space with people who need housing; typically, at least one party is age 60 or older. Sometimes the arrangement involves simply companionship or rent, but you can also agree on lower rent in exchange for things such as grocery shopping, dog walking, driving or other services.

Co-housing functions differently, a group looks into acquiring an actual building and land to house a complex where members can live together. Though the units are smallish, residents share a common house or area for communal meals, classes and meetings, plus gardens and outside walkways are designed to encourage socializing.

The newest and most vibrant innovation, village organizations, comprises various collaborations in towns, cities, neighborhoods and even apartment complexes. Members pay annual dues, and villages hire coordinators to oversee services. Topping the list is transportation, volunteer drivers, or ride-hailing services. Villages also arrange social gatherings and cultural outings. They have handyman services, home health agencies and other residential service providers often negotiating a volume discount.