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Growing older together

Growing older can be a daunting proposition for many people, fuelled by a recent media focus on the problems with aged care in Australia. It is clear that older people (and their concerned children) are starting to demand better housing and aged care solutions. Older people want to stay active and independent for as long as possible, while being connected to their communities. They need housing choices that enable this.

In the bigger picture, Australia is experiencing significant changes to population demographics and the composition of households. Households are getting smaller, our population is ageing and family structures are changing. All these factors point to the growing relevance of collaborative housing.


Australia is getting older

We know that Australia has an ageing population, with a greater number of people living longer and being in retirement for longer (Find out what the research says here). Of the changes projected to occur in Australia's population, the most significant are to the age structure of the population. Within a generation, the proportion of Australians aged 65 and over is projected to increase from 14.2% to 20%, and the proportion of Australians aged 85 and over will double from 1.8% to 3.6%.


This generation of older Australians will live longer, their retirement will last longer, their healthcare expenditure will escalate and many have significant levels of debt. Around three quarters will be eligible for the age pension. The changing population will need housing that suits its needs.


Collaborative housing has some great answers to some of the key housing questions and challenges facing older Australians.


Ageing in place and access to care

Most older Australians prefer to ‘age in place’, remaining in their existing home and community as they age. This can be a challenge, with modifications needed to adapt to changing health and mobility needs. Financially, the costs to maintain and heat and cool home that is larger than needed can be a cost burden, and the family home is a large store of wealth for many Australians that could be accessed to fund a better retirement.

Some of the collaborative housing options on this website offer possible solutions to these challenges. Small block collaborative housing provides an option to downsize without leaving your home, unlock equity in your property, and gather a community that could provide company and informal care. Having neighbours to help with smaller tasks and keep an eye on each other can delay the need for more formal care requirements. Other collaborative housing options (like building groups and cohousing provide ways to develop housing with your friends, in a manner more suitable to your needs as you age. Some communities have explored sharing a live-in carer between a number of households, or other options to share caring needs and requirements.

Affordability and security


While the current generation of retirees is, on average, healthier and wealthier than their predecessors, the vast majority will be relying on a fixed income from savings or age pensions. Housing affordability is a growing concern for many in this cohort, particularly women, who are likely to live longer and have less superannuation.

Working with a building group or cohousing development you can create a home suited to your needs as you age, while achieving savings compared with conventional housing and unlocking equity in your existing property. Alternatively, cooperative housing is a model that provides security of tenure while generally capping rent at an affordable level, allowing members to stay in their communities even if circumstances change.

Social isolation

A key challenge for older people can be the risk of increasing loneliness and social isolation. Loneliness can be worse for the health of older people than obesity, is associated with increased risks of heart disease, depression, anxiety and dementia. It has been compared with smoking 15 cigarettes a day. 

The collaborative housing options described on this website (Explore stories) place great importance on increasing social contact amongst residents by fostering a vital community that is truly connected and socially engaged. Most models encourage participation in community management and decision-making. Communities can really benefit from the wisdom and time older people have to offer.


Planning for retirement

Australia’s next generation of older people — baby boomers — are already seeking greater choice and diversity of options for services and housing than has been provided to previous generations. The have a strong desire to live independently and retain their personal autonomy. This is exactly what collaborative housing is about, helping people to create housing that meets their needs. The many possible benefits of collaborative housing are described here.


There are many options

All the different types of collaborative housing featured on this website could be tailored to suit the needs of older people, whether they chose to live with similar age groups or with a diversity of generations. A collaborative retirement could involve adopting one of the collaborative housing models profiled in this web guide. Or, it could mean engaging with a retirement living provider to bring principles of collaborative housing to more conventional retirement living options.


How to have conversations about the options with your family

You might be interested in these options for your later years, or you might want to canvass them with your parents as they grow old. Family members may initially be confused if they’re not familiar with the idea. This website provides a great resource to introduce people to the idea of collaborative housing. Here are also some Fact Sheets with background information you can download and print:

Cohousing for Seniors: What is cohousing?

Cohousing for Seniors: Three Models

Cohousing for Seniors: Sustainability

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Looking after each other

Looking after each other

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