By Galen

In Chapter 1 I suggested that corporate-owned senior facilities seem to work for folks able to afford the fees which deliver lavish accommodations, better staff ratios, and higher levels of service than those available to most resident-owned communities.

However the reason many seniors do not yet feel ready to join a community is the conviction that they will lose independence. Those who wish to remain in charge of life and property by joining resident-owned communities have a better chance of maintaining their sense of independence.

Senior communities almost always rank relationships with fellow residents at the top of their contentment scale.  Such relationships can be significantly deepened by joint ownership and joint government. Seniors can be wise. They have the ultimate luxury: leisure time to build their lives together.  The potential of this resource can’t be found on a balance sheet, yet it’s perhaps the most important factor of all in the present and future health of the community–both making it a good place to live, and enhancing its equity value.

If the true wealth of a community begins with the multiple talents of its individual members, it follows that the key to excellence in community government is to bring ALL those talents and creativity together in decision-making.  But will the voices of the community be heard more clearly by fellow owners than by a corporate owner?

That question can only be answered by the community leaders. To what extent do the leaders of the community genuinely welcome active resident participation? What steps are they taking to ensure a steady supply of “new blood” into the community over the years? Good leadership can combine an unpredictable mix of talents into governmental excellence to a degree not available to a corporate-run facility. The trick, of course, is to find such leaders, and then recruit new leaders to replace them year after year.

At worst, owner-association politics have a reputation for petty squabbling and community-wide divisions, and can create clouds dark enough to cause residents to leave. Such issues loom even larger for senior populations who value the chance to wind down their responsibilities and activity to a more comfortable level.

But being a family requires effort.  Many will find that new relationships forged in the struggle to include everyone’s voice will outshine the supposed benefits of doing less with their lives. Not everyone will invest the effort required for real community. But life can be quite wonderful for those who do, often in unexpected ways.  For them, corporate ownership is not even an option


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