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.

Another Great Crowd at the Meeting With the Project Manager

A hearty thanks to all those who participated yesterday in our public presentation and Q&A session with Linda Herman, the project manager of Phoenix Commons. It was a nice mix of brand new folks and seasoned veterans, both of whom are needed in order to keep seeing the fantastic progress we’ve been making in growing the community’s core group. After the usual introductions and a multimedia presentation by Cheryl Champ, our Community Relations Director, the participants had a chance to hear from Linda about the development process and use her tremendous knowledge to get answers to all their questions. The event concluded with a planning session of the Phoenix Commons core group members, and a roomful of smiles that can only come from the sharing of positive energy and encouraging discussion about intentional community. Check our blog regularly for updates about upcoming events and milestones. If you would like to speak with a member of the development team individually about Phoenix Commons, please don’t hesitate to call our office at 510-217-8527, or feel free to come over during office drop-in hours, every Thursday from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

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.

A New Type of Senior Housing in the Bay Area

Phoenix Commons in the news as a new direction in senior housing in the Bay Area.

Reporter Kristen Hanlon, of The Alamedan, interviewed Chris Zimmerman, CEO of Elder Village Development about Phoenix Commons. Read below for the full text and hear about our innovative new senior housing option in the East Bay.  For the link to The Alamedan please click here.

A new direction in senior living, just over the bridge

Kristen Hanlon
Friday, July 26, 2013 – 00:05
Phoenix Commons Exterior

Phoenix Commons a new senior living in the bay area

On the Oakland side of the Park Street bridge, in the neighborhood known as Jingletown, a new senior living community will be built on the site where the restaurant Tiki Tom’s burned down in 2010. The project, Phoenix Commons, is the latest endeavor of Alameda Elder Communities, which also operates the Waters Edge Lodge on Harbor Bay and the Elders Inn on Webster Street.

Phoenix Commons will be the first senior community of its kind in the Bay Area, according to Chris Zimmerman, chief executive officer of Alameda Elder Communities. Described as a “cooperative lifestyle community,” the complex will be comprised of 41 one- and two-bedroom units and communally shared areas.

“Cohousing is a co-op without the co-op label,” said Zimmerman. “The ideal of living together and sharing risk and everything else is really a co-op model.”

Zimmerman said the model is a common one in the Midwest and on the East Coast. In Minnesota, there are 35. In California, he said, there’s only one – the Wolf Creek Lodge in Grass Valley, which opened in 2012.

The main concept behind Phoenix Commons is the ability to “age in place” in a home that has senior-friendly universal design. Open floor plans, accessible bathrooms and kitchens are featured in each unit.

“The environment is not full of barriers, unlike the traditional home,” said Zimmerman.

Residents at Phoenix Commons will share 7,000 square feet of common spaces designed for group living.

“People are now often living thirty years past retirement, and in the aging process there are different levels, each requiring more support to remain independent,” Zimmerman said. “Successful aging requires community. If you’re living in a community where you are required to participate, you’re going to bump into people, and have casual contact which will lead to more social engagement which will lead to friendship.”

Unlike traditional senior living communities, cohousing residents decide together the amenities and services they want and need. In practice, said Zimmerman, this means “the residents have the advantage of group purchasing,” which he said is always thought of as a way to save money, but is really a way to maintain quality. That service provider knows that residents are attached to a group, and therefore there’s more at stake for them, he said.

Residents may desire to hire a professional chef to cook communal meals in the community kitchen, or hire an on-site maintenance worker. As the community ages, “the residents can make decisions on what kind of care to bring in,” added Zimmerman. “Because they will be linked to Alameda Elder Communities, they have the option of coming to one of our other facilities for care, and then returning to their home in Phoenix Commons once they are physically able to.”

The price range for the one- and two-bedroom homes will be $350,000 to $650,000, depending on the model, and there will a be an annual homeowner’s association fee of about $450, Zimmerman said. Groundbreaking is planned for this fall and Phoenix Commons will be ready for occupancy in late 2014 or early 2015.

For more information about Phoenix Commons, visit:

A Baker’s Dozen Had A Great Discussion

Things are really heating up at Phoenix Commons, as we welcomed thirteen participants to our most recent Life’s Next Chapter presentation this past Thursday! In addition to getting the scoop on the Bay Area’s first senior cohousing community, curious seekers and prospective members alike were able to meet with the development team and share their ideas and visions for cooperative aging. From the steadily increasing attendance and energy at our events, it is quite clear that senior cooperative lifestyle communities are an idea whose time has definitely come, and we are excited to provide folks with the opportunity to help shape the very first one here by the Bay.

If you have not yet had a chance to attend any of our events, fear not! There will be plenty of more opportunities to learn about Phoenix Commons and find out what the buzz is all about. Visit the website regularly for updated news and event announcements, or call Cheryl Champ, our Community Relations Director, at (510) 217-8527.

“Planning the Next Chapter” Was Packed to the Rafters

Thanks to all who came to our Planning the Next Chapter workshop this past Thursday. The roundtable was completely filled up with friendly, inquisitive people with the maturity and foresight to proactively plan the next chapter of their lives. Between the earnest discussion about aging in community, and breaks for socializing and networking, the 2-hour workshop felt like 30 minutes!

With more and more prospective members understanding the benefits of aging in a cooperative lifestyle community, the vision of Phoenix Commons is rapidly becoming a reality. If you would like to participate in our next Planning the Next Chapter workshop, check our homepage regularly for announcements or call Cheryl Champ, our Community Relations Director, at (510) 217-8527.

Thank you Everyone for attending Tuesday’s Planning the Next Chapter Event

Thank you everyone for coming to the workshop on Planning the Next Chapter presented by Elder Village and  Co-sponsored by Phoenix Commons. This event helps us learn how to plan for our future. If you were unable to attend yesterday’s event  there will be another on Thursday July 11 at 7 pm at Phoenix Commons office “1723 Webster St. Alameda”. Hope we see you there.

Oakland senior cohousing community in Oakland Tribune

Oakland senior cohousing is the first of its kind in the Bay Area.

The Oakland Tribune sat down with Phoenix Commons this morning to talk about the cohousing concept and how this new,  innovative Oakland senior cohousing project will bring people together and create a new ideal when it comes to senior independent living.  You can read the article below, or click here to read the article on the Tribune’s site.

Cohousing community model targeted toward seniors to break ground in Oakland

By Brittny Mejia, Oakland Tribune

OAKLAND — A cooperative lifestyle community targeted toward seniors, a first in the Bay Area, will break ground this fall.

The project, to be known as Phoenix Commons, is being developed by Alameda Elder Communities, which has been providing assisted living services to seniors for more than 40 years in the city of Alameda.

Phoenix Commons, to be located in the Jingletown neighborhood of Oakland, is inspired by a cohousing model, that brings older adults into a community so they are not isolated, said Victoria Stone, director of community development for AEC.

Cohousing is a community model where residents can share resources, leading to a more sustainable lifestyle, Stone said. It also creates more social interaction as people get older.

“This creates a social environment where residents have a close-knit group of peers, and that’s a huge benefit to the quality of life,” Stone said.

Although cohousing projects exist in Oakland, this is the first and only senior cohousing community in the Bay Area, according to Stone.

When Robby Kiley, 70, moved to California about six years ago after the death of her husband, she began looking at senior housing available in the Bay Area. She found out about AEC and cooperative lifestyle communities like Phoenix Commons at a workshop on aging about a year ago.

Kiley said she got interested in Phoenix Commons because of the community atmosphere, which allows residents to maintain a community of people who can provide social contacts and other support.

“My next move I expect to be my last move, and I’m looking for a place that I will be until my death and such a place that my life can be managed without calling on my children and the like to step in and assist and manage,” she said.

Phoenix Commons’ residents will volunteer five to eight hours a week toward that community life, which can include cooking or planning social events.

“For me it’s great because it’s another model of an intentional community in the Bay Area,” said Neil Planchon, a founding resident of Swan’s Market Cohousing in Oakland. “I love the emphasis on seniors, and I love the fact that it’s local.”

Swan’s Market Cohousing has been a presence in the city since 2000 and includes a diverse group of residents. Planchon said cohousing is not only ecologically sound but also results in a tight-knit community.

“There’s a lot of congeniality amongst ourselves as families, by doing stuff together,” said Planchon. “The quality of life is just very high.”

The $21 million Phoenix Commons project will cost residents about $450 a month in homeowner association fees. There will be 41 units available and about 60 people are expected to reside in the community once it opens in 2015.

Although the core community has not yet solidified, the envelope of the building is designed and waiting for residents who will come in early and have the opportunity to design the community spaces within.

“We want people to join now and build their relationships and community vision together,” Stone said. “You really want to come in early and get to know your neighbors and create the vision for the community you want.”

San Francisco Business Times interviews Phoenix Commons

We are pleased to say Phoenix Commons was interviewed by the San Francisco Business Times today! The article covers the details of the project including the number of units within the building; also the article goes into a little about two of the developers, Chris Zimmerman, the founder and Jeff Zimmerman, the architect. Check out this interesting article by clicking here.

Thursday, July 11: Planning the Next Chapter

Elder Village presents: Planning the Next Chapter

Co-sponsored by Phoenix Commons

An Interactive Workshop to Explore the Realities and Imagine the Possibilities

Come and learn about the key elements that will enable you to meet, or exceed, your expectations for the next chapter of your life.

Come and take charge of your future!

When: Thursday, July 11

7 pm – 9:30 pm

Where: Phoenix Commons Office

1723 Webster st, Alameda

RSVP: By Friday, November 30 to Samantha 510-217-8527 or [email protected]