Cohousing & the Aging Population in the Granite State

 

population_change

*Chart taken from the NH Center for Public Policy Studies Navigating Housing’s Future NHHFA presentation

This change in population by age is an important factor to consider when writing our Regional Master Plan. One specific area affected by this statistic is housing, and specifically the housing market. According to The Atlantic Magazine, the housing market is soon to be affected by shifting trends in home ownership and apartment rentals. Between 2002 and 2008 there was significant downsizing in the housing market as the number of renters ages 55 to 64 increased by 80% (Emily Badger, The Next Housing Crash, Atlantic Magazine). It was also found that these individuals looking to downsize are attracted to housing in areas with high levels of community engagement, abundant services, and options for walkability (Anna Gagne, AICP. Michael Tunte, and Sarah Horne, Don’t’ Fence Me In, Planning (The Magazine of the American Planning Association ))The state of New Hampshire will soon be facing a rapid increase in the size of its’ older population cohorts. In addition, NH Listens and UNH Cooperative Extension, through their 2013 outreach process known as Communities of Place, shared that New Hampshire has a high proportion of its workforce near traditional retirement age and that our population is growing older.

These concepts were also addressed in a recent article that appeared in the December 2013 issue of Planning (The Magazine of the American Planning Association). This article looked at the aging senior population and how seniors are making a push for living arrangements that allow them to be close to services, and to be part of their surrounding community, all while having options for transportation to and from services.

One housing trend that allows for these amenities is cohousing, which began in Denmark in the late 1960s. In the U.S. there are currently only 6 cohousing senior developments (Anna Gagne, AICP. Michael Tunte, and Sarah Horne, Don’t’ Fence Me In, Planning (The Magazine of the American Planning Association)) , however there are 220 total cohousing communities being developed or that currently exist in the U.S. (http://www.cohousing.org/directory)

cohousing

*Oak Creek  Senior Cohousing   Photo Credit: http://www.stillwaterseniorcohousing.com/

Concepts important to cohousing include community, being environmentally conscious and working to ensure energy efficiency in building and housing designs, sharing of resources among those who live in the cohousing development, and for those who are going to be living in the community to have a say in the design process. Cohousing communities include separate homes and a communal center where there are craft and activity rooms, a shared kitchen space, extra bedrooms for guests and possible live-in nursing staff, and other rooms that are shared among community members. Some examples are Oak Creek Senior Cohousing in Stillwater, OK (http://www.stillwaterseniorcohousing.com/), and Silver Sage Cohousing in Boulder, CO(http://bouldersilversage.wordpress.com/our-members-2/)  (Anna Gagne, AICP. Michael Tunte, and Sarah Horne, Don’t’ Fence Me In, Planning ( The Magazine of the American Planning Association ))

 

nv

*Nubanusit Neighborhood and Farm, Peterborough, NH  photo credit: http://www.peterboroughcohousing.org/

More locally, there are two forming or formed cohousing developments in New Hampshire, and thirteen in Massachusetts. The two in New Hampshire are located in Lyme and Peterborough.  The cohousing in Peterborough is called Nubanusit Neighborhood and Farm, and is located on 113 acres of farm land, fields, and woodland (http://www.peterboroughcohousing.org/). The Pinnacle Project cohousing development is still in the early phases, as a group owns the land but has not begun building. This further development of this site is slated for 2015 (http://www.pinnacleproject.info/).

Analyzing the changing demographics and needs of New Hampshire residents as they age in place, is one of the factors important to consider when working on the Regional Master Plan. These issues, as well as input received from outreach and the existing conditions data, are being analyzed and considered while we write the housing appendix, as well as all other appendices for the Regional Master Plan. We would like to hear your ideas and thoughts as well.