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Success of senior co-housing arrangements affected by people, place, and long-term security

Baldwin C, Dendle K, McKinlay A. Initiating senior co-housing: People, place, and long-term security Journal of Housing for the Elderly. 2019; 33(4): 358-381.

Review question

      What factors affect the success of co-housing models for older adults?


      Proper housing is critical to one’s wellbeing, serving not only as a physical shelter, but also providing emotional, psychological, and financial security.

      With the rising age of global populations, the rate of those living alone into old age has increased significantly over the past 50 years.

      Many older adults prefer to age in place as moving away from their home can mean a loss of autonomy and control over their own future.

      Unfortunately, rising rent and housing prices can serve as an impedance to these goals, highlighting the need for innovative housing models for older adults.

      This systematic review examines co-housing models for older adults, with a focus on success factors and implementation considerations.

How the review was done

      Review authors conducted a search of five research databases for suitable studies.

      The following keywords were used to find appropriate results: senior, elderly, co-housing, share house, and housemates.

      A total of 60 articles were included in this review.

      No specific funding source was reported by review authors.

What the researchers found

      Studies included in this review revealed a wide spectrum of housing models encompassed by the term, “co-housing.” Based on these findings, review authors defined senior co-housing as a living situation that encompasses, at minimum, two or more people of separate households, living in a physical layout with both shared and private spaces. Notably, residents must be able to participate in self-governance, independence, and make autonomous security arrangements in order for a housing format to be called “co-housing.”

      The findings from this review were thematically organized into three categories: people, places, and long-term security.

      In the category of “people,” review authors discussed the tendency of co-housing arrangements to group people either by age, culture, background, or financial ability. In age-based arrangements, success has been found in housing formats which limited new residents to those between the ages of 50 and 70 years. In these arrangements, staggering co-residents by age allows for the balancing of active seniors with those demanding increased social care.

      While some models investigated the possibility of intergenerational housing arrangements, studies have found that informal, non-cohabitation relationships seem to be more successful in establishing positive intergenerational social bonds.

      Finally, review authors found that co-housing facilities tend to house seniors of similar culture, backgrounds, or financial ability, whether intentionally or not. Although this has been found to facilitate the development of positive support networks for residents, suggested ways to cultivate diversity included agreed guidelines and group norms that affect communication, behaviour, interaction, and conflict resolution.

      In the category of “place,” included studies showed that co-housing arrangements can vary from urban to rural areas. Housing arrangements can occur at a variety of scales, from multi-unit developments to small, self-organized clusters of two or three unrelated residents. In many of the studies, the importance of shared communal facilities was stressed as a way to foster social interaction between co-residing older adults.

      The long-term security of housing arrangements was found to be critically important to older adults. The security of housing formats can be affected by a number of factors, principally revolving around the type of provider administering the co-housing arrangement and the degree to which residents are involved in the financing and development of the project. In most cases, external support from professionals is needed due to the complexity of the co-housing model.


      In conclusion, this review revealed that successful co-housing for older adults is influenced by a variety of factors, including the age and background of co-residents, the location of housing facilities, the long-term security of living arrangements, and the degree to which residents are involved in the design of the co-housing project.

Related Topics


Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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