Tag Archives: cohousingforboomers

Living Off the Grid


We went to visit a friend who lives in a community about an hour away that is off the grid. I’ve been there many times before, but this time was special because it’d be the first time we would see Arjuna’s new home, named “Leila”, all finished and lived in.

Walking up to it, the curves and rounded shapes in the structure made me smile. Inside there were more rounded edges, with walls and floors having an earthiness and sensuality that is lacking in practically every house that I’ve even seen, and I have seen a lot of houses!


I have to wonder why most homes are not made to feel good?  Having lived in a 1903 home in Switzerland, where the design was based on Pythagoras’ Golden Mean, where each room and every room that it touched was in harmony, I can truly say that this small detail makes a big difference. And since we spend so much time in our home, doesn’t it make sense that it should feel good?

It was a cold winter afternoon outside, but going inside “Leila” was like a familiar hug, and the fire that heats the house by heating the walls smelled so good!

Alternative housing, alternative living, communal living: I’ve lived that way when I was in my 20’s. Being in a community of like-minded people is something that is hard to describe. And if I told you that it was the best time of my life, being in the middle of nowhere in Oregon, not owning a car, not getting paid but having everything that I could possibly want, either you wouldn’t believe me, or you would want to be living there right now!

In Switzerland, we often found ourselves living in houses with others.  One of the things that people often think is that there would be no privacy with this type of housing.  And the funny thing is that I had the feeling that I had more privacy; maybe because I was more inside myself, finding my own space and being there?

And now as I get older, having lived the chapter of my life called “remodeling the old farmhouse, having a nice garden and chickens and rabbits with my partner”, I can again see the benefit of having people around me, friends that share the garden, the shopping, and get together for things that matter to me, like meditation. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I can see it more clearly after spending that afternoon at Arjuna’s in her beautiful house at Earthaven.


Co-Housing: On the Way to Wolf Creek Lodge

Bob Miller

One of the things I love about blogging is the ability to meet people anywhere – anytime.  When Sue Counts (guest blogger) wrote about co-housing a few weeks ago, we got tons of emails and comments from readers everywhere.  One such person was Bob Miller, and the next thing I knew, I was inviting him to be a guest blogger – our first male blogger on Oops50!  Thank you, Bob. 


My wife and I became members of a co-housing community called Wolf Creek Lodge earlier this year.  The lodge is currently under construction in Grass Valley, California.  We expect to move in sometime late in 2012.  We have chosen Wolf Creek Lodge as an appealing environment for our senior life style.

Future Wolf Creek Lodge

The conventional American living environment can be hostile to the senior species.  They want community, walking access to stores, entertainment and recreation.  They want low maintenance, sustainable housing.

Community is important to me and my wife.  Earlier in our lives we found this at our workplace, through our children’s activities, our extended family, our church and sporting activities.  We no longer go out to work and our children are living their own lives and our older family members have passed away.

We watched our parents become isolated in their later years.  We believe we can do better by taking action now before change becomes challenging.

Who's Slowing Down?

At Wolf Creek Lodge we will have our own condominium-style apartment, one of 30.  However, we will also use the common room, living room, patio and gardens.  We will invite friends to stay in one of several guest apartments.  We will stroll on the adjoining trails, walk to the nearby shops and enjoy the cultural activities of Grass Valley.

Community will be at our front door.  Most evenings we will dine in the common room sharing cooking and clean up activities.  We will join others over coffee and relax on the patio.  We will continue to ski, bike and hike in the northern Sierra, which are only an hour away.

What a Ride

We realize that as the years pass we may become unable to drive and our physical capabilities may become more limited.  The Wolf Creek Lodge environment will continue to work for us.  The lodge even includes an apartment for a care-giver, should we need extra help.

Wolf Creek Lodge is a creation of its evolving community.  The community worked with the architect on the design to oversee the construction and formulate the processes which will guide the members’ common activities.

Already, months before moving in, we are enjoying the community.  We are in constant electronic communication with all the other members and attend the General Meeting in Grass Valley once a month.  My wife has a key role on the landscape committee reviewing the planting plans and identifying members who want to work in the gardens.  I help on the marketing and technical committees.

Under Construction

On the marketing committee I am working to find people to join us and fill the remaining 6 apartments.  It’s fascinating to talk to potential members as they try to understand this co-housing concept.  They pay us repeated visits to decide if they want to spend the rest of their lives with us.  They finally take the decision and pitch in.

We do not really know what it will be like to live at Wolf Creek Lodge.  We are working hard with our new friends to make it happen and having both fun and challenges along the way.

Bob Miller is currently a ski bum in Truckee, California.  Born in England of an English mother and a Scottish father, he moved to Scotland at the age of 11.  After graduating from Glasgow University with a degree in Physics he married Claire, started a family, and moved to the Boston area in 1978.  Bob’s career was in the computer industry.  Since his retirement, he moved with Claire to Truckee.  Besides skiing, he rides his road bike and hikes in the Sierras.




Senior Cohousing for Baby Boomers!

Sue Counts

My friend, Sue Counts, retired three years ago as the Director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Watauga County after more than 40 years in government.  During her tenure, Sue initiated educational programs in the areas of sustainable tourism, sustainable energy, Hispanic outreach, and women in agriculture.  Sue says, “At this point in my life, I’m seeking a better life for the Baby Boomers who are entering that stage of their lives known as ‘the senior years’.”  So, when Dene Peterson, the founder of ElderSpirit Community came to Boone a few weeks ago to talk about her life’s work, Sue was there attending meetings about the possibility of creating such a community in Watauga County, NC.  She graciously shares important information on “Retirement Housing.”


IT’S OFFICIAL!  We are now in the “ERA OF THE GOLDEN BOOMERS!”.  On January 1, 2011 the very first Baby Boomer turned 65, and 10,000 boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 19 years.  This gigantic generation has transformed America as they have passed through every stage of life…..and housing for the elderly will not be any exception.

It's Official

Co-housing communities if you will!  These communities bring together the value of private homes with the benefits of more sustainable living.  That means common facilities and good connections with neighbors.  All in all, they stand as innovative answers to today’s environmental and social problems.

According to Charles Durrett, author of Senior Cohousing Handbook — 2nd Edition, A Community Approach to Independent Living, “No matter how rich life is in youth and middle age, the elder years can bring on increasing isolation and loneliness as social connections lessen, especially if friends and family members move away.  Senior co-housing fills a niche for this demographic — the healthy, educated and proactive adults who want to live in a social and environmentally vibrant community.  These seniors are already wanting to ward off the aging process, so they are unlikely to want to live in assisted housing.  Senior co-housing revolves around custom-built neighborhoods organized by the seniors themselves in order to fit in with their real needs, wants, and aspirations for health, longevity and quality of life.”

Elderspirit Community

The ElderSpirit Community at Trailview in Abingdon, Virginia is the living example of a community of mutual support and late life spirituality.  It is the first mixed-income, mixed ownership Elder Co-Housing Community in the United States and in this capacity it is making its way as it “walks the talk.”  The founder of ElderSpirit Community is Geraldine “Dene” Peterson, a “spry” woman in her 80’s who recently received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the 2011 National Cohousing Conference in Washington, DC.

Dene Peterson

At eighteen, Dene  Peterson left her parents and ten siblings to join a convent. She ultimately chose to leave the religious order, but her spirituality remained deeply rooted. In 1995, at age 65, she created the ElderSpirit Community in Abingdon, Virginia. Inspired by a Danish model, Peterson wanted to form a co-housing retirement community that would allow friends to live together in a collaborative and supportive setting while also offering some of the autonomy of private dwellings.  Peterson also envisioned an alternative to institutional long-term care, a place where community members would have the emotional support of their peers as well as the necessary medical assistance to live out their lives at home.  Using a creative patchwork of funding from public and private resources, Peterson raised $3.5 million, and her vision materialized.  Construction of the 29 residences, common community building, and a prayer room was completed in late spring of 2006 and houses both the moderate and low-income.  The model has gained national attention, and an ElderSpirit outreach extension program in now helping to plan similar communities in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Kansas, and Virginia.

The ElderSpirit Community is dedicated to making possible new opportunities for Elders in the 21st Century.  The ElderSpirit Community values are: To live in a community of diverse spiritual paths; To give and receive support in relationship with neighbors in community; To belong to a community who make the decisions on how they will live together; and To encourage each other to live simply and care for the earth.