The very thought of aged care homes can send shivers up and down many spines of those 55 and over. “Nobody wants to move to aged care.”1 However not everyone can afford to stay in their own homes but everyone wants a decent home where they feel safe and secure.

Some, particularly those who are single and even more so if they are also women, wish to have company during their ‘twilight years’ and avoid the loneliness that can come with retiring alone.2 While the research is showing that many people aged 55-65 are not actively planning for ageing3 there are some who are and cohousing is seeming like a viable option for perhaps a growing handful. These are known as ‘senior cohousing communities’ or SCCs.4

Research from The Institute for Sustainable Futures, has grouped this type of housing into three main groups: Small-scale cohousing where a single suburban block can be transformed into more than a single dwelling with shared facilities such as laundries or gardens; Cooperative rental cohousing that includes self-contained homes with shared common spaces such as kitchens and outdoor spaces; Deliberative development where residents employ architects to design properties that suit their needs with an emphasis on community, sustainability and liveability.5

Adaptively reusing buildings and repurposing large houses and other dwelling typologies (such as hotels and motels) into co-housing options for older generations also makes environmental sustainable sense. New housing stock is not required, saving on construction resources and land; space per person is better utilised; there is the opportunity for sharing appliances, furniture and other household items that would normally be required per individual household energy and water requirements are potentially reduced and communal gardens can supply food as well as community engagement and improved well-being.

Adaptively redesigning a small block of flats could, for example, accommodate smaller self-contained residences to secure privacy with shared communal spaces such as eating and cooking spaces, entertainment and social spaces, service areas such as laundries and gardens. One of these units could also be kept as a rental that, when the time was needed, could house a live-in nurse/carer for the occupants reducing their need to access aged care facilities. The Henry Project6 for example has been established to work with people to repurpose and redesign existing houses and other buildings such as ‘retired’ motels, into co-housing dwellings. 

When you start looking, and re-imagining how established typologies could be repurposed, architects and designers have endless opportunities to recreate housing outside of the aged care home, for a large ageing population of people. 

For more information visit Tasmanian Timber


[1] Institute for Sustainable Futures, Advanced Cohousing for Seniors, https://www.uts.edu.au/sites/default/files/article/downloads/Cohousing%20for%20Seniors_Final%20Report. pdf, accessed 7/3/20
[2] Hely, S. 21/2/2019, Boomers ditching retirement homes for share-houses, https://www.moneymag.com.au/aussies-share-houses-60s, accessed 7/3/20 
[3] Institute for Sustainable Futures, Advanced Cohousing for Seniors, https://www.uts.edu.au/sites/default/files/article/downloads/Cohousing%20for%20Seniors_Final%20Report. pdf, accessed 7/3/20 
[4] Kropf, N., Cummings, S., 5/9/19, From cohabitation to cohousing: Older baby boomers create living arrangements to suit new needs, https://theconversation.com/from-cohabitation-to-cohousing-older-babyboomers-create-living-arrangements-to-suit-new-needs-121592
[5] Institute for Sustainable Futures, Cohousing for Seniors: Three models, https://www.uts.edu.au/researchand-teaching/our-research/institute-sustainable-futures/our-research/social-change-4, accessed 7/3/20 6 https://www.henryproject.com/, accessed 7/3/20