Plan for a Small Age-in-place Community

An increasing number of people facing retirement decisions are looking for ways to maintain their independence and ensure a high quality of life as they age. For the most part, the wealthy can simply pay for services. However, those with limited resources and those who don’t have children or other trusted heirs to help manage their care, may have anxiety about who will make decisions for them if they experience mental decline. Joining or establishing an intentional community is a way to ensure there will be someone in a role to manage care services. The following is a description of a small “chosen family” type of age-in-place community, which still need written agreements to mediate the interests of all involved.

Three Types of Age-in-place Community Members

  • Patrons: Wealthy older couples or individuals who want a place close enuf to healthcare and with people who can help them out. They don’t want to have to go to an assisted living facility later. They may be seeking to sell their property and move to a place that’s accessible for low mobility. Alternatively, they may be landowners who invite others to buy in thru rent-to-own that includes work-trade.
  • Workers: Qualified stable younger folks in a communal house pay a low rent and do work trade.
  • Property managers: Ideally this would be a couple that has community management experience, probably age 40-55. They may have small private lodging but share a communal kitchen with the younger folk. Part of the deal may that they can remain in the age-in-place community too. They need to be stable and committed, because the younger folk are more likely to eventually move along as new opportunities arise for them.

Responsibilities of Community Members

  • Patrons: These age-in-place community members may pay off all or most of the debt in exchange for shares in the property.
  • Workers: They do the shopping for the group, maybe even cooking and cleaning. Definitely they do the physically challenging jobs such as property maintenance.
  • Property managers: Manage the governance process and help with workload. Consultants are available to help all decide on and practice a governance style, to make decisions together. Consultants could facilitate meetings and help create the cooperative norms. It would be kind of like living with an HOA, where property managers make sure group has to consider each others’ preferences.

Exiting the Contract

  • Patrons: Co-op bylaws could say shareholders may only sell for the same amount they put in, and only when the other shareholders have found a buyer who is a good fit for the community. If any elderly members eventually have need of convalescent full time nursing care, they may need to sell shares to give their caretakers the funds to keep them in a high quality facility.
  • Workers: They can move on easily if the agreement was simply rent and work-trade. If they have money invested from rent-to-own agreement, they can sell their shares to incoming renters, who the property managers find workable as community members.
  • Property managers: They can sell shares to someone else if they decide to move on, but only after other shareholders have approved a replacement.

Finding the People

  • Patrons: Advertise with brochures and social media marketing, which could point to our description. Patrons won’t likely want to set up a profile on the icmatch site, because they are used to paying for others to do such tasks for them. ICmatch consultants can help them manage their part of the setup.
  • Workers: Find thru ICmatch membership. Some sites match elderly homeowners with a younger caretaker who stays for free in exchange for negotiable chores. Try out this leading senior homeshare site silvernest.comThe National Shared Housing Resource Center keeps a directory of U.S. homeshare programs. Similarly, matches college students to elderly homeowners.
  • Property managers: Find thru ICmatch membership. Alternatively, the property managers may be property owners who are seeking help to pay off their mortgage.

Legal Considerations

  • Patrons might not have children, or their children may not be willing and able to support and advocate for them in the event of severe disability. They need to designate an executor, who might be the property manager if there is enuf trust between them.
  • Having a land trust act as executor is a possibility, if mortgage debt gets paid so that a non-profit organization can take it on. Land trust ownership with conservation easement lowers the taxes and ensures succession planning will be managed well. The contract could stipulate zero further added units, which land trust types will favor. 
  • Shareholders who paid the loan off could be given life-long lease on the property, which may or may not extend to their heirs, if any.
  • It should not be set up as tenancy in common, because this could cause problems if some shareholders want to sell and others can’t afford to buy them out. It’s not a real estate investment.
  • The contract should insist on arbitration or mediation, so that no one gets stuck with a financially draining lawsuit, should any intense dispute arise.