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    How to Identify LGBTQ-Friendly Cohousing for 55+

    By Angela Hunkler–

    I read a story in Forbes the other day that posed the question, “Will LGBT retirees end up back in the closet?” ( https://bit.ly/32A7yz3 ). The headline sent a shiver up my spine. God, I hope not, I thought. Was I just lucky to find an accepting cohousing community for seniors in Oakland, California? The more I thought about it, the more it troubled me that LGBTQ seniors might feel compelled to go back in the closet in the community they choose to spend their senior lives in.

    To help ensure that the community you’re evaluating is an environment that you can feel comfortable being yourself in, I’ve come up with a few suggested tips. Note: For background, I am a lesbian and for three years have resided at Phoenix Commons (PC), a cohousing condominium community for 55+ on the Oakland waterfront. My neighbors in this intentional community accept my partner and me wholeheartedly.

    I consider myself fortunate. I may be a senior, but I’m still able-bodied and have a career. If you’re in my boat, you may be a good candidate for cohousing. Cohousing is an intentional community of private homes clustered around shared space. Each single-family home has traditional amenities: kitchen, family room, bedroom/bedrooms and bath. Shared spaces include a large kitchen, dining area, laundry, parking and entertainment, along with indoor and outdoor recreational spaces.

    Cohousing communities are built around separate homes in proximity, with common space, or in a single structure with a lot of shared common space to complement individual condominium units. Owners in cohousing have independent lives, but together we collaboratively plan and manage community activities and shared spaces, typically under the structure of a Homeowners’ Association (HOA).

    Alegre Home Care is proud to support Dr. Marcy Adelman’s Aging in Community column in the San Francisco Bay Times.

    Cohousing groups seek to balance private and community needs while building mutually supportive relationships among members through teamwork and playing together. Social events, impromptu gatherings, shared meals and scheduled meetings provide ample opportunity for interactions. At PC, important community decisions are made using participatory processes that help to bring members to consensus.

    When looking for your senior community, make sure it can accommodate your physical requirements, albeit now and in the future. Phoenix Commons is entirely ADA-approved.

    When you think that you’ve found your dream community in your dream location, don’t rush to sign on the dotted line. Take your time to know the residents and their surroundings. Can you see yourself living there 20–30 years from now? Look for opportunities to socialize. For example, at PC we all work together in the kitchen and with necessary tasks to keep our common home up.

    Choosing a senior housing community is a huge commitment. Now is NOT the time to hide in the closet. To ensure the community you are signing onto is welcoming and accepting of you, be honest; and most importantly, be yourself. If you just want to put your toe in the water, invite 2–3 of the residents to dinner to know you a bit better. Attend an HOA. 

    Buddies in this process are important. Ask about the community’s initiation process. Perhaps the community you desire to live in will allow rentals while you are pondering this sizeable investment. And finally, note that this process from start to finish could take a while when you factor in the time it takes to downsize your possessions, sell your home and eventually move. 

    To learn more about Phoenix Commons, go to: http://www.phoenixcommons.com/

    Angela Hunkler is an Oakland-based artist. For more information: https://angelafhunklerart.com/home.php