Awhile back I wrote about the advantages of older people living in small, close communities. In that earlier discussion (9-23-11) I quoted William Thomas as saying, “The Green House Project is a de-institutionalization effort designed to restore individuals to a home in the community by combining small homes with the full range of personal care and clinical services expected in high-quality nursing homes.” As a counterpoint to Thomas’ corporate business-model approach to creating small “nursing homes” instead of large ones, I offered the option of returning to the concept of the commune. In this notion older people would band together cooperatively to share resources, provide community, engage in fellowship, help each other to coordinate services and hire local help for daily needs. My notion was why let corporate America provide a community where in most of the rest of the world people create their own communities.

To add another dimension to the commune idea, Amanda Scarbrough sent me an article about poverty among elders. In this article the author, Deborah Carr (2010), says, “Poverty rates among older adults range from just 3.1 percent among white married men to an astounding 37.5 percent for black women who live alone and 40.5 percent for Hispanic women living alone. How can we make sense of the fact that overall elderly poverty levels have dropped precipitously over the past four decades, while some subgroups of older adults remain at great risk of impoverishment? She goes on to discuss the possible reasons for higher rates of poverty for single women, but there is an interesting observation to note from looking at two of the graphs she includes in her article. See below.

Looking at these two graphs it is true that the poorest group are women over 65 living alone. Notice that men over 65 are also fairly high in the poor category. The other interesting piece of information is both men and women who are married have quite low rates of poverty. This suggests that there is strength in numbers and that one should not live alone.

Moustgaard & Martilainen (2009) give us some information about an increase in cohabitation among the elderly, “Elderly cohabitation almost doubled between 1990 and 2003, with 3.4% of men and 2.1% of women currently cohabiting. Low educational attainment, low occupational social class, and living in rented housing were associated with cohabiting rather than being married.” This appears to support the notion of poorer people banding together to make ends meet.

Wondering about the subject of elder coops, I found an on-line discussion of this topic at a homestead forum. They seem to be talking about the very idea I have advocated.  The discussion is insightful. (

And so this adds another aspect to the notion of the elder commune and cooperative living situations. What we cannot do alone, we can do together.



Carr, Deborah. Golden Years? Poverty Among Older Americans. Contexts, American Sociological Association, Winter 2010.

Heta Moustgaard, Heta & Pekka Martikainen, Pekka. Nonmarital Cohabitation Among Older Finnish Men and Women: Socioeconomic Characteristics and Forms of Union Dissolution. The Journals of  Gerontology: Series B, 2009, volume 64B, issue 4, pp. 507-516.