Rebirth of Intentional Communities or Communal Living

The idea of communal living grew during the sixties and seventies. They started to decline in the eighties according to Laird Schaub, the executive secretary of the Fellowship for Intentional Community. As baby boomers research where and how to live as they reach retirement age, many are returning to the concept of communal living. The commune may be the new retirement community.

The growth of communes from 1965 to 1975 was usually based on a shared vision by its members. Communes were often established out of a broader idealism of creating a better world. There were also communes that were artistic collectives, religious and self-help communities. According to Schaub, there are approximately 4000 intentional communities with a population of 100,000 members.

While communal living may not replace the traditional sun city model of retirement community, there are growing in popularity. No longer only populated by people in their young twenties, many retirees are exploring intentional communities.

Why do retirees consider communal living?

Cost is a factor. The communal experience usually costs much less than living in a single family home. Baby boomers saw their home equity and retirement savings decrease in the recent recession. Living on a commune provides a way of retiring with less income.

Community is built in. Isolation is one of the most difficult adjustments new retirees face. Living in a commune provides a built in community.

Pooled resources. Intentional communities offer the opportunity for people to combine “money, creativity, skills, assets, ideas and resources.” The whole is bigger than the sum of it’s parts.

Of course, intentional communities are not for everyone. It is important to find a situation that meets your needs and values. For people who are open to the possibility, communal living provides an option to the tradition retirement community.

About Cathy Severson

Cathy Severson helps baby boomers find more meaning and purpose in their lives and work. Get your copy of her complimentary e-book Guide to Retirement Activities a comprehensive look at work, volunteering and leisure based on an individuals’ personalities. Call for a complimentary 20-minute consultation to answer your most pressing concern. 928.775.4949 or email Cathy at

6 Responses to “Rebirth of Intentional Communities or Communal Living”

  1. Over the past 10 years we at have also noticed a lot more interest in communal living from people of all ages including folks thinking about retirement. We agree that communal living isn’t for everyone, but we think it can offer a higher quality of life – and a lower carbon footprint. Its worked for us for over 43 years now.

  2. Senior Cohousing is one great example of a combined communal and private living. You’re living communally only insofar as your neighbors are close, the paths between homes are pedestrians while cars are relegated to the edges of the community (within 20-150 feet from your home), decisions on common areas (paths, the common house, certain areas of landscaping, in our case a pool and hot tub as well) are made as a group, and neighbors come together for different events, whether they be meals, movie nights, or a music recital in a common house which can contain whatever residents design. Our common house has a generous kitchen, dining room, sitting room, music room, teen room, 2 guest rooms (nice to not have an extra bedroom in your house), and a playroom for children since we’re an intergenerational cohousing neighborhood.

    I recommend that you read Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities by Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett, or Senior Cohousing: A Community Approach to Independent Living. The Handbook by Charles Durrett.

  3. Thanks for the information. I love all of the creative ways people are living together. Staying connecting and finances are two reasons why communal living makes a lot of sense for seniors

  4. Our large family has often talked about creating a family compound” with small individual houses for each family member around a larger common center. We envision that the common center would include a laundry, a larger kitchen for parties, gatherings, the music and entertainment area, library, arts/crafts area, a kitchen garden, etc. So sort of commune-ish.


  5. virginia papp March 9, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    I love the idea of seniors/retired folks sharing housing. I lived and rented in San Francisco for 34 yrs. I was forced to relocate to CT, the state from which I originate, due to some health problems and no longer being able to work. CT is a very expensive state and rentals are out of sight. I always liked living with people and feel it’s not only better for my mental health but for my budget as well. My problem is I don’t know of any senior/retired cohousing in this state.

  6. I do not know of any national registry for finding cohousing. Marianne Kilkenny has more knowledge about this than anyone I know. Go to her website and contact her to see if she knows about cohousing in CT.