Valparaiso, Chile. May 10, 2015: Houses on Cerro Concepcion, Valparaiso historic World Heritage of UNESCO

As builders and developers, there are so many aspects of the design process to think about that sometimes the long term effects of housing on it's occupants is sometimes overlooked. The trend toward community and the benefits that it offers is reshaping designs.

The headlines are roaring with research about the impact of social isolation and loneliness on older adults. Studies show that they can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and result in a 26-32 percent rise in premature death.

But what if your housing choices in later life could mitigate that isolation? What if loneliness were to be replaced with meaningful connections? Increasingly, boomers and seniors are thinking about not only where they want to live, but with whom they want to grow old.

One out of three people aged 50+ are divorced, widowed or never married. Late life divorce, also known as “gray divorce,” is on the rise. Even when there is a partner, some don’t have children or if they do, they’re far away or not involved in their lives. The right housing arrangement becomes an even more important consideration.

And then there is moving and mortality. When you’re older, beloved friends, neighbors and family may pick up stakes or get ill. Joy Loverde, author of The Complete Other Care Planner, calls it the “revolving door theory.”

Says Loverde: “We must get used to the revolving door of people coming in and out of our lives. We need to become used to, and good at, accumulating friends. People don’t plan on that door regarding housing and isolation.”

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