How To Build Retirement Communities

Comments Off on How To Build Retirement Communities

Share this Article


Nearly 90 percent of Baby Boomers say they want to stay in their homes and close to family and friends as long as possible, according to a recent survey by AARP. The challenge these individuals face, however, is that if they do nothing to prepare for future needs, they may not be able to continue living in their homes as long as they’d like.

Many are responding by joining their neighbors to take control over where and how they’ll live in the years to come. The following senior living options reflect the energy and possibilities of this revolutionary trend.

The Village Concept – Intentional/Cooperative Communities for Seniors

As opposed to more traditional senior housing options, a ‘village,’ or intentional community, allows people to continue living in their homes as they receive support from an organization they themselves have actually created. This living arrangement is an ideal alternative for individuals who want to maintain their current social relationships and activities. According to HouseWorks CEO Andrea Cohen, village members build the community among themselves and establish connections with local service providers to ensure they have reliable support services as they need them.

The pioneer of this concept is Beacon Hill Village in Boston. Members of Beacon Hill Village can take advantage of social, cultural, and wellness activities selected by the membership; concierge services; and comprehensive home care. Home repair, house cleaning, grocery shopping, and transportation are other available services. Responding to the intense interest their success has attracted, Beacon Hill Village sponsored a how-to-organize-your-own-village conference last spring that was attended by community leaders from 27 states.

Annual membership for Beacon Hill costs $550 per person, and $750 per couple. Lower-income residents pay $100 a year and also get a $250 credit toward the various services. In an AARP article, Social Worker Judy Willett who directs Beacon Hill said that in many cases, remaining at home and using the village’s services is much cheaper than assisted living. If someone requires 24-hour care or other expensive services, the total costs will most likely match those of a nursing home.

The intentional community trend is rapidly spreading as Cambridge at Home in Cambridge, MA and the local Capitol Hill Village in Washington D.C. plan to launch this fall. In response to an article on the concept, representatives from over thirteen neighborhoods in D.C. and surrounding jurisdictions attended an informational meeting coordinated by AARP and Gallaudet University last May. Palisades Village, which includes the adjacent Foxhall area, last spring registered as a non-profit organization in D.C., and is currently awaiting 501(c)(3) approval from the I.R.S. According to Capitol Hill Village Executive Director Gail Kohn, the D.C. area is a hotbed of organizing groups as The Chevy Chase, Cleveland Park, Glover Park, Kalorama, McLean Gardens, Mt. Vernon/Holland Hills, and Woodley Park neighborhoods are at various stages of development.

Another organization in progress is the Clifton-Fairfax Station Transition in Place Services (CFS-TIPS). Secretary and Treasurer Bill Cole said, “We have been gathering lists of potential providers of all sorts to include resources which are or might be made available to our potential senior members.” After small meetings with Home Owner Associations, churches and organizations, they have received resident input on this new concept of living.

“Their comments are supportive and positive, and they want to know more about the type and extent of services we will offer,” said Bill.

Andrea Cohen added that the consumer enthusiasm for this idea is remarkable saying that almost every week she is contacted by groups looking for information and advice that will help them create their own village.

“The village concept of neighbors helping neighbors has real promise to accomplish what most people want regardless of their age,” said Gail, ” That is, the opportunity to be connected, maintain their homes and themselves with the help of volunteers and vendors they can trust.”

According to Vice President of the Palisades Village Group, Alicia Juarrero, the interest stems from the bottom-up effort of these communities.

“One thing we believe in is that before doing anything else, organizers must query eligible neighborhood residents on exactly what services they want and need,” she said.

HouseWorks, the preferred home care provider of Beacon Hill and Cambridge will begin serving villages in the D.C. area when the company opens its Bethesda office later this year.

Capitol Hill Village:
Beacon Hill Village:
Cambridge At Home:
AARP Bulletin:

Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs)/Supportive Communities

A NORC can be a residential neighborhood, apartment complex, condominium, subsidized government housing, or a combination of these different housing types with a concentrated group of individuals who have aged in place. There are a variety of innovative programs being offered and developed to better address the needs of these communities aging in place.

“Although they share a similar purpose and goal, there are differences,” said Beth Shapiro, manager of Community Partners, a supportive community administered by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. While residents banded together to support each other in villages, supportive communities are formed when social service organizations join with residents to keep the community intact.

Community Partners is a consortium of social service agencies that have partnered with building managements and residents to bring four pillars of service to the properties they serve which, according to Beth, include recreation, health, social work, and transportation.

Members get together to enjoy excursions to museums, theaters, and restaurants for which transportation is provided. A concierge program is used by members for doctor appointments and a licensed practical nurse offers on-site blood pressure clinics, assessments and other health-related services. These established relationships allow members and their families access to additional support they can rely on which Beth said is important in the event of a crisis.

Community Partners has been funded by Montgomery County and currently receives funds from the Administration on Aging and the state of Maryland. It offers a subsidy program for which 20% of the membership currently qualifies.

NORCs will only expand with this growing population and its majority’s desire to stay in place.

Desiring more control for their future, people are taking advantage of these new housing trends. The growth of villages and supportive communities in NORCs are allowing the eight out of ten individuals wishing to stay in their current residence or looking for an alternative to traditional senior housing the opportunity to further their independence.

-Jewish Federation of Greater Washington – Community Partners or (240) 283-6100

Guide to Retirement Living SourceBook enthusiastically supports this movement. If you are interested in joining, forming or connecting with other, please email us as at and we can assist in connecting you to others.

Comments are closed