One of the major reasons seniors decide to age in place in their original neighborhoods is the pulse of living in the inter-generational “real” world. We all for the most part, grew up in a regular neighborhood where there were always new babies and the reality of the old and everyone in between. The prospect of going to a retirement community that is solely the new old, older and oldest is still off putting to many even as they grow older themselves.
No manner of amenities, sous chefs with interesting menus of healthy food, a gym you can walk to, or creative or stimulating activities balances out the aspect of being around others who are on the decline. It is our own sense of ageism Even within senior living communities, there is an ageism factor where people more dependent on mobility devices (walkers etc.) have to use a different entrance.
So what is the answer to the natural occurring neighborhood that filters in and out with the lives of young and old? I would like to introduce the next step in an attempt to become a better reality of senior living by seniors not corporations. As affordable housing becomes more of a widespread crisis and the real estate market is less fluid less rewarding to sell and move, people talk more and more about just having a tiny house. Not the one that has more space than you need or more maintenance then you can handle. But they do not just sprout up in the old neighborhood, sometimes you have to create a new one.
A year ago I introduced in a blog: https://waystostay.org/rebel-rebel/ a project headed by Dr Bill Thomas to build small Minka houses through MAGIC. First the house then the idea to place them in a community that would give enough added support but allow independence. When I first looked at the architects drawing of the community to be built in Clearfield PA, about 20 miles northeast of Penn State I felt like I was in fairy tree hugger tale land.
As I enlarged the graphic and read the titles of the lush green spaces around the 60 age and dementia friendly homes to be built, I was dazzled a bit by the ideal nature of the layout. Meditation woods, urban farming , community building and a healing forest. Then being from Pennsylvania I remembered that the location is both isolated and yet next to the resources of a major state university. Both single family and multi-generational homes will be available for residents of all ages.
This is an experiment worth doing, one that is well overdue. I am sure there are naysayers who would revolt at the idea of mixing students in with the housing for seniors. Animal House meets the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel population? They are hoping for just the right mix.
The idea seems to be affordable housing (low tax base) in a natural environment. Other states are already on board to launch similar projects. It is not a commune, not co-housing, nor are they Accessory Dwelling Units and definitively not a CCRC with a guarantee step down to more care. Will it be a place where somehow it all works out in the magic of the neighborhood bonds formed?
I will follow its development (3-4 years projected opening) into reality and maybe at some point make a trip up to the Village of Hope. To read the kickoff article see:https://changingaging.org/blog/minka-magic-homes-and-communities/