Housing Models for Aging in Community

Authored by: Sherry Ahrentzen , Ruth L. Steiner

The Routledge Handbook of Housing Policy and Planning

Print publication date:  July  2019
Online publication date:  July  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138188433
eBook ISBN: 9781315642338
Adobe ISBN:


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Over the next three decades, housing and community planners will need to address the challenges presented by the growing numbers of seniors in their communities, and the associated spiraling economic and health care costs. A significant number of seniors may not be willing or able to age in place (i.e., live in the same home and neighborhood of their middle adult years), nor pursue new living arrangements in retirement communities or other traditional senior living models. Are there viable alternatives that can be embedded, integrated, or re-created in the existing residential infrastructure, particularly in the suburbs where the challenges to aging are significant? This chapter envisions a middle ground of residential options between the age-restricted senior living community and the suburban home one has lived in for a long time. An “aging-in-community” paradigm encompasses housing models that allow people to live in age-integrated communities but not necessarily in their current home, or to live in their existing home but with a layer of community-generated service networks to support them in maintaining their homes and lives. These housing models are appearing in urban centers and suburban neighborhoods with access to friends, families, and services. The housing models include naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs), the Village Movement, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and multigenerational and senior cohousing where an intentional community of private homes is clustered around shared spaces such as a common house, recreational area, and community garden plots. In each case, these exemplars of “aging in community” draw on reserves of social capital to foster the well-being of older residents who choose not to live in conventional retirement communities or are unable to remain in their current homes without assistance. These new models may have their own particular constraints for certain individuals, but overall, as a viable living option, they offer older adults opportunities for control and connectivity with community while addressing the challenges of affordability.

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