Creating Community for Optimal Aging

Even before my parents moved from Memphis to live near me in Kansas City, they were part of my social circle. We always invited friends to family holidays and I often hosted gatherings when my parents visited. I wanted them to know my friends and vice versa. When they finally moved because of Mom’s increasing memory issues, they had a small community of people who already knew and cared about them.

So I was very interested when I read Martha Stettinius’ thoughts on Aging in Community. Martha lives in a co-housing setting in New York and knows the benefits first-hand. I wanted to share some of her insights.

From Martha Stettinius, author of Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Daughter’s Memoir

How does aging “in community” differ from aging “in place”? And how can we age “in community” no matter where we live?

Many boomers have witnessed their parents’ struggle with long-term care and they want an alternative to aging by themselves at home and overtaxing family members, or to being placed in a large facility. They seek a network of mutual support among friends, family, and their community, a network that allows them to help others now, and receive help in the future.

Aging in community can mean living in an intentional community such as in cohousing, or within a network of neighbors who volunteer to help each other, such as the Beacon Hill Village in Boston. Building this community means finding or creating the places and relationships that can sustain us as we grow older and sticking by friends who are living with frailty, dementia, or a disability.

I have lived in cohousing with my family for 16 years, and believe that if we age in community we are more likely to remain healthier longer, stay in our own homes longer, and appreciate the gifts of giving and receiving care. We are more likely to accept our vulnerability and understand that asking for assistance and companionship is not a weakness.

We can also age in community in a facility, if it respects and empowers both elders and professional caregivers and fosters close relationships between staff and residents.


Martha’s ideas resonate with me and remind me to be present for friends, family, and neighbors who might need extra assistance or support.

For more about Martha’s work, visit her website at

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.