Senior Cooperative Living: University-Style

The ASA (American Society on Aging) blog has a fascinating interview with USC professor Victor Regnier, who holds the country’s only joint appointment to an architecture school and school of gerontology. His architectural grad students have designed a community based on the Apartment for Life housing projects that are popular in Europe, particularly the Netherlands. Just as in the cohousing concept, Apartment for Life residents can arrange for specific services when they need them, thus eliminating the problem of overcare experienced by so many seniors in assisted living facilities.

In the article, Prof. Regnier also mentions the cooperation of a developer with housing experience and a health care provider with gerontological experience as an ideal arrangement for such projects. This is a strong endorsement of Phoenix Commons’ philosophy, as it has been designed by Alameda Elder Communities, which has over 40 years of experience in senior housing and health care, and the community’s members will continue to be able to count on AEC’s expertise and support whenever needed. With senior cooperative lifestyle communities such as Phoenix Commons,  Wolf Creek Lodge, and USC’s proposed Apartment for Life gaining ever greater awareness in the general public, older adults can look forward to better housing and care options that respect their autonomy and dignity.


Time to Reauthorize the Older Americans Act

This month’s AARP Bulletin has a short article on the Older Americans Act (OAA), which is due for reauthorization in Congress. Without it, millions of older Americans could lose access to such very important (and already underfunded) programs such as Meals on Wheels, senior centers, paratransit programs, and more. AARP’s senior lobbyist says that the OAA is relatively uncontroversial, so reauthorization  may just be contingent on a moderately-sized grassroots campaign to remind our lawmakers to take care of America’s seniors. Contact your elected representatives as soon as you can, and remind them that it’s time to reauthorize the Older Americans Act!

Senate Bill 1023: Older Americans Act Amendment of 2013

(Sponsored by Sen. Bernard Sanders, Co-sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer)

Contact Sen. Dianne Feinstein:

(202) 224-3841 (Washington, D.C.)

(415) 393-0707 (San Francisco)



Full text of the article available below:

Vote on Older Americans Act Critical (AARP Bulletin, Vol. 54, No. 7, September 2013)

Lost in this year’s political shuffle of health care, immigration and debt ceiling issues is a law, enacted in 1965, that funds services critical for keeping older adults healthy and independent. The Older Americans Act (OAA) is two years overdue for reauthorization – the periodic process of tweaking, overhauling or ending a law’s mission, or simply letting it stand as it is.

For decades, OAA programs have helped to provide older people with delivered meals, job training, senior centers, caregiving support, transportation and much more. AARP is urging Congress to pass a simple reauthorization that maintains and strengthens existing programs – which are currently underfunded – and does not jeopardize any of them.

Unlike many other issues, the OAA remains essentially uncontroversial, says Larry White, AARP senior legislative representative. “Everyone seems to agree that the act isn’t broken,” White says. “Everybody appears to agree that the act does not require major changes. There is almost universal applause for the provisions in the act.”

And yet Congress has not come together to reauthorize the OAA. There has been no movement on in in the House so far this year. In the Senate, a reauthorization bill introduced by Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has 18 Democratic cosponsors but no Republicans. Meanwhile, without a renewed vote of confidence through reauthorization, the act’s core programs, already hurt by spending cuts imposed by sequestration, are more vulnerable as Congress wrestles with budget issues. “It is not a certainty that Congress will not fund OAA programs,” White says, “but it is a possibility on which AARP prefers not to gamble.”

The Exploding Popularity of Cooperative Aging

The Boston Globe recently published an article in its magazine titled, “Introducing the retirement commune,” describing the various ways in which the Baby Boomer generation is reinventing senior housing by embracing more cooperative forms of living. Now some of you might be thinking: Great, an article about aging hippies. Not so fast! While this trend might be influenced to some degree by that generation’s experience with flower power in the 60’s, it is likely influenced even more by society’s current trend towards what is called “the sharing economy”. As proven by the popularity of such services as Craigslist, Zipcar, AirBnb, BitTorrent, and many others, the sharing economy is no longer the province of hippies. It is fully mainstream now (as it once was before hyperconsumerism), propelled by both economic necessity and quantum advances in mass communication, and it is beginning to make a difference in senior housing as well.

The article itself explores many forms of this new trend, including co-housing, informal house sharing, family arrangements, and village movements. What all these alternatives share in common is a rejection of the retirement status quo, in which people grow lonely in their isolated, outsized, single-family homes in the suburbs. As a group, the Baby Boomer generation is learning from the experience of their older parents, relatives, and friends, and inventing new ways (or reinventing the old, old ways) of aging together with a network of supportive peers. As the first senior cooperative lifestyle community in the San Francisco Bay Area, Phoenix Commons is proud to offer Bay Area seniors an opportunity to be pioneers in this rapidly growing movement.

Building a Community of Support and Acceptance

An article in the Wall Street Journal, titled “Hip, Urban, Middle-Aged,” examines the influx of aging Baby Boomers into neighborhoods and communities that are considered strongholds of young hipsters. Numerous anecdotes are used to illustrate the growing trend, reflected in nationwide statistics, of older adults replacing their large suburban homes with multifamily residential units, such as condos and co-ops, in vibrant, up-and-coming neighborhoods. The Baby Boomers featured in the article are in many ways similar to those who have expressed interest in Phoenix Commons. They are educated, middle-class, and looking to share new experiences with a broad diversity of people in an inspiring, creative neighborhood.

There is a huge difference, however, in attitudes towards aging. In the article, the prevalent attitude towards aging is one of denial. The featured development firm targeting the Boomer generation is actually proud of the fact that they consciously omit features, such as grab rails in showers, that would allow people to age in place. Their CEO is quoted as saying, “We don’t want to remind buyers that one day they might need a grab bar […] We don’t want them to be thinking about the next stage in life.” At Phoenix Commons, we do want you to think about the next stage of life, because we know that being proactive and prepared will greatly enhance that next stage. Instead of denying the inevitable and sticking your head in the sand, why not set yourself up for a better future with supportive and understanding neighbors?

With its prime location in Oakland’s Jingletown art district and within walking distance to Alameda’s Park Street commercial district, Phoenix Commons’ members will be just as involved in their community as any of the folks in the Wall Street Journal article. The main difference is that Phoenix Commons residents will also be prepared for the future, ready and willing to face the aging process together, with humor, courage, and decades of fun memories.

Now Coveted: A Walkable, Convenient Place

Today, the most valuable real estate lies in walkable and bikable urban locations. A location’s walkability is defined by how much of the everyday needs can be met within walking, transit, or biking distance. The New York Times article by CHRISTOPHER B. LEINBERGER, a George Washington University School of Business and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Now Coveted: A Walkable, Convenient Place, describes how housing value is positively correlated to walkability scores.