Commentary

Bolton Anthony: ‘Not so big’ author Susanka to kick off elder housing series

September 13, 2013 

Bolton Anthony

BOLTON ANTHONY

When the boomers were kids, ice cream came in three flavors — chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. Now there’s a thousand.

What we boomers did to ice cream, we will do to retirement — reinventing how, where, and with whom we choose to spend the rest of our lives.

A new monthly series, kicking off on Tuesday, Sept. 17, in Chapel Hill, will explore how the ferment taking place across the country — the search for new models of community for later life — is playing out in our own backyard.

Many of the new ideas for aging in community already have a toe-hold here. Several neighborhoods in Chapel Hill and Durham are already experimenting with the concept of the “virtual retirement community” (also called the Beacon Hill Village model). Cohousing, unknown in the Triad and Charlotte, has been a vibrant fixture on our housing landscape for over a decade, and there are efforts now afoot to transplant its most recent permutation— elder cohousing — to the area. But other ideas, like shared housing (or “Golden Girl Homes”) — ideas that are all the rage in communities as near as Asheville — are virtually unknown here.

The series will be your chance to learn what is happening in housing innovation both here and across the country — more importantly, an opportunity for you to connect with others with similar interests and take first steps forward making something new happen. Consequently, the second and third programs in the fall series have a more specific focus: the Oct. 15 program on shared housing, the Nov. 19 program on elder cohousing.

On Sept. 17, however, we will call on architect, author, and visionary Sarah Susanka to put these societal changes in the broadest of contexts. Susanka, who lives in Raleigh, is the author of nine books that collectively weave together home and life design. Her books have sold well over 1.5 million copies, and her “Not So Big” message has become a launch pad for a new dimension of understanding — not just about how we inhabit our homes, but also about how we inhabit our planet and even our day-to-day lives.

“A community is not just a place. It is also a process. The typical homogeneity of our sprawling suburbs doesn’t have to be the way we continue to build in this country.” We have to take charge of our own destiny, Sarah reminds us: “The development of a collective vision for a type of community that’s beautiful, inspiring, and vital is the first step toward the realization of this new way of living.” We can take that first step with the facilitated small group conversations that will follow that night, immediately after Sarah’s presentation.

“Aging in Community: Planning for Our Future” is being sponsored through a partnership that includes the Orange County Department on Aging, Charles House, and Second Journey. Carol Woods and Carolina Meadows Retirement Communities are generous supporters. Because of the overwhelming early response, the event has been moved from the Seymour Center to United Church of Chapel Hill at 1321 MLK Jr. Blvd. in Chapel Hill, where the doors will open at 5:45 PM for book sales and signings. The presentation begins at 6:30. For full details and a link to the reservation form, go to SecondJourney.org/FallSeries.htm.

Bolton Anthony is the founder of Second Journey, the general editor of the book, Aging in Community, and the co-host of “The Heart’s Desire,” a local film series that begins its third season at the Seymour Center on Sept. 19 at 6:30.

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