Here are some sobering statistics about our generation and aging in America: Boomers are aging alone more than any previous generation, with about one in 11 having neither a spouse, partner, nor child, according to the latest research. To look at the numbers another way, that means there are eight million Americans without someone by their side or looking out for them. And, as if you aren’t feeling worried enough about this yet, the number is only expected to grow in the years ahead.
Eight million Americans have no one by their side or looking out for them.
Obviously, many forces are conspiring to create this scenario, which experts say have us poised on the brink of an elder loneliness epidemic. “The effect of isolation is extraordinarily powerful,” Donald Berwick, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, recently told the Wall Street Journal. “If we want to achieve health for our population, especially vulnerable people, we have to address loneliness.” Some have even put a dollar amount on this cost: Social isolation costs Medicare an estimated $6.7 billion a year, mostly from spending on nursing facilities and hospitalization.
One intriguing avenue that may help remedy this problem is the co-housing concept—many people give credit to Hippie-era Boomers for creating it originally. What co-housing looks like today isn’t a commune drenched in patchouli and tie-dye. Quimper Village in Port Townsend, Washington, is one example of co-housing—an intentional community with many shared facilities and activities (dining, gardening, workshops, fitness) and private residences, which are currently sold out. The plan of the community encourages interaction—from designating three meals per week as all-community to having porches and footpaths that encourage interaction.
Co-housing today isn’t a commune drenched in patchouli and tie-dye.
Taking things a step further is SilverNest, a housemate-matching service that says it’s for Boomers and Empty Nesters. Those looking for a bedroom in a home with someone of a similar age will find it here, and those who have a space to rent out to someone who wasn’t born yesterday can also do so.
We hope to see more of these kinds of services in the years ahead that foster community for all of us as we age. Tell us in the comments—what do you think are some terrific solutions for America’s emerging loneliness epidemic?