The Pros and Cons of Cohousing for Older Adults

Updated on March 20, 2020

As people get older, they may explore a few different options for housing. Although some may move to long-term care centers, most older people do not require round-the-clock monitoring. Some might move to retirement communities that offer varying levels of medical care depending on residents’ individual needs. Others may move in with family while some might simply downsize their own family home to a smaller apartment. Some retirees hit the road, enjoying a full- or part-time life of RV-ing. However, there is another option for older adults that is growing in popularity, and that is a kind of communal living. Often referred to as cohousing to distinguish it from traditional communal living or retirement homes, this can be cost-effective for older adults and provide them with a genuine sense of community.

The Cohousing Arrangement

Cohousing generally involves residents who have their own living spaces but who may come together to cook meals or for other activities. While it is becoming more popular with people of all ages, there are particular advantages for older adults. Unlike retirement communities, cohousing communities are usually self-managed, and residents choose one another. Some cohousing may be very informal, with a group of older friends buying or renting property together. Others may happen in purpose-built environments that are future-proofed in case the residents later need additional accommodations.

Saving Money

Older adults may struggle with finances. The 30% rule, which states that rent should be only 30% of overall income, can be difficult for many older adults to achieve. However, cohousing can give them a safe, yet affordable housing option for a place to live. The community aspects of cohousing, such as cooking meals together, are not primarily aimed at saving money, but this is another advantage.

Dealing with Loneliness

Loneliness can occur as an epidemic among older people, who may be widowed or divorced. Their families may live far away, or they may have adult children who are busy with their own lives. After retirement, friends may have moved while others might have died. Cohousing can provide social contact, and because it is based on shared interests or other commonalities, it is not simply a matter of people being thrown together because they are of a similar age. The arrangement allows people to avoid isolation while still maintaining their independence, and residents tend to have high levels of satisfaction and happiness.


For those who are concerned about sustainability, many communities are specifically built with this aim in mind. For example, many use renewable energy and institute recycling. Sharing tools, cooking supplies and other items also reduces waste.

Possible Disadvantages

Cohousing isn’t right for everyone. While all residents have privacy, there is also an expectation that they will participate in the community, and some people may not want this level of involvement with their neighbors. Different communities may have varying levels of communal decision-making, and this may not work for everyone. Some individuals may simply have medical needs that cannot be met in this kind of living situation although they may be able to make outside arrangements.


Senior Outlook Today is your go-to source for information, inspiration, and connection as you navigate the later years of life. Our team of experts and writers is dedicated to providing relevant and engaging content for seniors, covering topics such as health and wellness, finances, technology and travel.