By Saki Bailey,|June 4, 2019
Five elder women in one of the highest-cost urban areas in the United States are banding together to build the intentional retirement community of their dreams.
San Francisco Bay Area residents Mary McDonald, Barbara Reusch, Alisa Foster, Harriet Tubman Wright, and Ina Clausen were all concerned about where they would be living in 10 or 20 years, who would be helping to care for them as they aged, and how they could achieve their desire to age in an intentional community — especially given soaring housing costs. Hibiscus Commons, which is slated to be the first elder cooperative created in partnership with the Bay Area Community Land Trust, was born out of their conversations.
“If you are a homeowner, you may have the luxury of aging in your own home, but this isn’t the case for a lot of lower-income elders who have never been homeowners,” said co-founder Mary McDonald. “Even for those lucky enough to stay in their own homes, it can be lonely and isolating to age on your own, and expensive to get in-home care.”
Aging with security and dignity can be difficult or even impossible for some seniors. The fastest-growing segment of the homeless population is people older than 55, and that cohort is likely to keep growing as the U.S. ages. The number of Americans aged 64 or older will nearly double by 2030 from 20 years earlier, to 70 million. In the expensive East Bay, the problem is acute. “Almost half of the Oakland homeless population became homeless after the age of 50,” said Harriet Wright.
Hibiscus Commons, a self-managed elder cooperative and intentional community, addresses all of these things: the isolation that comes with aging, the insecurity of housing and living on a fixed income in an area with one of the highest costs of living in the U.S., and accessing the care needed as one grows older.