173826 Elder cohousing: What is it and how do residents compare to the general population?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Anne P. Glass, PhD , Institute of Gerontology, College of Public Health, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Marilyn Schroeder, MS , Institute of Gerontology, College of Public Health, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
A new alternative for older adults has recently been launched: elder cohousing. While intergenerational cohousing has existed in the U.S. since the 1970s, elder-only cohousing communities are novel. The pioneering ElderSpirit Community (ESC) is unique in many ways. Designed for those with moderate to low incomes, ESC is self-managed, encompasses both owners and renters, and includes an emphasis on spirituality. Baseline data on the “founding residents” was collected in 2006 and 2007. Of the 32 residents interviewed, all were white, most were female (78%), and the average age was 70.38 (range 63 to 84). Data was gathered on social networks, self-reported health, reasons for moving to ESC, and expectations about ESC. Compared to the general older population, residents were less likely to have children or to still have living parents, and more likely to be divorced or never married. While reporting low to moderate incomes, they were generally highly educated. The prevalence of hypertension and arthritis was about the same as in the general older population, but over half (58.07%) self-reported their physical health as “excellent” or “very good,” a notably higher percentage than the national average for noninstitutionalized elders. Of particular significance is ESC's focus on mutual support, as non-kin caregiving may hold one answer to the challenge of providing care to our burgeoning older population. Residents are clearly counting on mutual support, as 26 (81.25%) reported they were “very likely” to call upon other ESC residents if they needed help with home/personal care due to a health problem.

Learning Objectives:
1) Understand the elder cohousing concept and how it offers an alternative that has potentially far-reaching effects for older adults 2) Describe characteristics of residents of one of the first elder cohousing communities in the U.S. 3) Articulate similarities and differences between the cohousers and the general older population

Keywords: Aging, Community

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I did the research described in the abstract.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.