As Boomers approach retirement, we’re circling our wagons, in search of a landing pad that is functional, safe, fulfilling and sustainable. Some of us have branched off to follow children and grandchildren only to find they’re too busy with their own lives to have much room for us. Many of us are colonizing with like-minded fellow Boomers who share our interests, value system, taste in music and social activities. We’re moving into retirement bungalow communities or affordable condos with activity centres and handy amenities. These communities are, however, in short supply.
What makes us different from earlier generations is that we’re demanding more creative approaches to retirement accommodation. One of the reasons our parents are so reluctant to move from their suburban split-level is the lack of viable options. The housing market doesn’t offer many in-between choices for that couple of decades between the big family home and the restrictions and finality of a “retirement home”. My friend MaryAnne sent me a link to a recent article in the Toronto Star about a group of Boomer ladies in Port Perry, Ontario who are living *Golden Girls-style. Four retired women pooled their resources, bought a large Victorian home in a lovely community on Lake Scugog northeast of Toronto and had it customized so they could live independently yet cooperatively in a shared home.
My own circle of Boomer friends has talked endlessly about communal living. Perhaps it’s a throwback to our idealistic hippie days from the sixties but more realistically it’s just plain practicality. Our families are busy with their own lives and we want the support and social interaction offered by our circle of friends while remaining independent. There are so many options in addition to the Port Perry Golden Girls’ model. The one that appeals to us the most is the “colony”—where we each have our own separate unit but are part of a cluster of similar units forming a pod of lifestyle-sharing retired Boomers. It could be linked or detached one-storey homes. Florida is brimming with this type of accommodation. It could be a multi-unit, two or three-storey condo-style building comprising six or eight units with two units per floor sharing a common elevator/stairwell corridor. That configuration would provide windows for light and ventilation on three sides of each unit.
Land prices are becoming prohibitively too expensive to build cost-effective retirement communities in large cities like Toronto and Vancouver but smaller urban centres could greatly enrich their tax base by marketing to us. Smaller towns and cities should encourage developers to build what we’re looking for. We want access to health care, shopping, theatre, libraries and sports facilities. The baby boomer generation is a huge demographic. It’s a mystery to me why developers, communities and investors aren’t capitalizing on this opportunity by providing what we’re looking for. Build it and we will come. Just call me.
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