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  • Writer's pictureNancy Griffin

New Community Models Break the Mold of Senior Living

Updated: May 12, 2021

It’s an exciting time to be in senior living. Demand for alternative living options beyond traditional independent and assisted living is driving mind-blowing innovation. Here are a few of the exciting projects on our radar.

Cozy Home Community

Cozy Home Community is a community-driven, community-based rental concept serving the middle-income market. The vision of Matt Thornhill, founder of The Boomer Project (now SIR’s Institute for Tomorrow), Cozy Home features eight two-bedroom, two-bath homes clustered in a colony on an acre of land. In the center is a Common House and garden space. Five colonies make up a community.

“I designed Cozy Home for the middle market because there is an enormous gap in the senior living space for affordable housing. The new generation of older adults will not be interested in life planned communities with 100,000+ entrance fees and monthly fees upwards of 5,000. I decided it was time for me to become an entrepreneur again at age 60, and launched a new type of senior housing product for middle income seniors to live together in a community and take care of each other,” said Matt.

The 1,200 sq. ft. rental homes are modular, use solar energy, and feature Ingrid Fetell Lee’s ideas about the aesthetics of joy. The target market is healthy 60 to 80 years old. There are three key elements to the Cozy Home concept. First is the physical configuration. The second element is the shared common story of the residents who live in each colony.

“The shared common story is a connection point that brings them together—maybe they're all retired schoolteachers, or in the healthcare field, or musicians. Maybe they want to volunteer and give back in, or maybe they are all Jimmy Buffett fans. Our intention is to use the same resources that colleges use to match up dorm roommates,” said Matt.

“The third element is service. Each resident (if able) must commit to 12 hours of community service a month. It can be helping with landscaping or managing books for the for the operation. “It’s a great way to foster community, provide purpose, and encourage ownership in the community. Research shows that living alone by yourself not having a purpose will kill you faster than just about anything else. We are intentional about creating the community aspect to make it possible for folks to age well together.”

MEA Regenerative Community

Hotelier and author Chip Conley’s Modern Elder Academy (MEA) has entered the senior living space. “MEA Regenerative Community is to the 21st century what a retirement community was to the 20th,” according to the website Designated as an “intentional community,” MEA’s focus is on cultivating purpose and connection by building vibrant communities centered around a campus for midlife wisdom retreats and sabbaticals.

“Intentional communities are moving into the mainstream because we are discovering who we want to connect with in later life,” said Chip Conley. “After creating the proof-of-concept Modern Elder Academy in Baja California Sur, Mexico, we’re setting out to grow a collection of MEA Regenerative Communities in the U.S. with Santa Fe, New Mexico as our first location. The ethos, rich culture, distinct vernacular and human scale, enchanting natural environment, deep spiritual connection, and intergenerational and diverse population make this land an ideal setting for our vision. We see the foundation of regeneration as embracing our inherent interconnectedness and interdependence.”

The first target for MEA Santa Fe Ranch will be the 1,000 MEA alums from 24 countries. MEA alums are 45-65 years old (average age 54), more than 60% women, and almost 25% people of color. Given that MEA is a social enterprise and has offered more than half of its workshop attendees some form of scholarship, the MEA community is quite diverse including firefighters, physical therapists, software engineers, and university professors.

The first MEA Regenerative Community, called MEA Santa Fe Ranch, is under construction at the former Saddleback Ranch, located 25 minutes outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Instead of a golf course, there is a regenerative farm. Instead of a closed community, intergenerational engagement is a core value—with opportunities to learn, grow, serve, and work together. The regenerative agriculture started this year, with the MEA Academy planned to open in 2023 and the residential community in 2024.


UpsideHōm offers fully managed rental apartments for older adults that include furniture, wifi, housekeeping and much more. The company secures vacant apartments in large, professionally managed, amenity-rich buildings and adds easy access to a wide range of services specifically targeted towards older adults. People between 68 and 85 live intergenerational with support such as prepared meal delivery and transportation in a “deconstructed way,” according to CEO Jake Rothstein.

“UpsideHōm recreates the experiential piece of a traditional senior living community, but in a less stigmatized, more flexible and much more affordable way. Our goal is to individualize these types of activities and events for the people that live with us. We have a broad range of people living with us now who all have different ideas about how to engage in the surrounding community,” Jake told SeniorTrade.

“Technical is a key component of the UpsideHōm business model, enabling efficiencies and cost savings for residents, driving discounts through economies of scale. We like to say we're building a senior living community using technology versus using brick and mortar, which is a new concept for people. Residents have a single point of contact with our home management teams, and technology strings it all together on the back end to deliver an incredible experience. Now we're building customer-facing technology that gives residents a single point of access on their IPad or iPhone.”


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