Aging and Community: A Natural Fit

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat recently ran a story about a small cohousing community in Mendocino County (California) named Cheesecake (the article originally appeared in the New York Times). Besides its endearing name and secluded, wooded environment, one of the most striking aspects of the community is how the members have learned to deal with the issues of aging and care.

Cheesecake wasn’t formed with aging in place as a primary concern. The original 11 members were simply a mix of married couples and single women in their fifties and sixties who wanted to live a cooperative lifestyle far from the city. The community even decided initially that anyone who became seriously ill would have to leave, since “Cheesecake wasn’t designed to function as a hospital or hospice.” Yet as the members became older and started requiring more care, the community re-examined its thinking:

When Dick Browning, a retired school principal, brought his wife back after her 2003 surgery, residents began appearing at the Brownings’ door within the hour, he said: “They asked, ‘Can I be the one to bring tea to you?’ ‘Can I bring flowers every day?’ ” […] Cheesecake was envisioned for happier times, but for some of its residents it also seems to have made the difficult ones more bearable.

The Successful Aging workshop series led by Elders Village (and sponsored by Phoenix Commons) explains the benefits of proximity and intention while aging, which allow neighbors to provide the much needed social and moral support, while professional caregivers can be hired at affordable group rates to do the heavy lifting. This is not only theory; there are numerous examples of this approach leading to optimal aging and healing, and it looks like the Cheesecake community have figured this out on their own. The genius of cooperative aging, and the attractiveness of intentional communities like Cheesecake and Phoenix Commons, is perhaps most simply stated in the article: “No one should have to grow old alone.”

For more information on how to age successfully through community, please contact Elders Village and ask about the Successful Aging course: (510) 217-8527. A complimentary course orientation workshop is being held this Thursday (Oct. 24th, 6:30-8:30 pm), so call or email now to reserve your spot!