Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

Reaching their retirement years, some former commune residents are actively planning to head back to the place where they spent their formative years. That’s right -- they’re Going Back Up The Country -- and probably playing Canned Heat on the ride up!

Known as intentional communities, a term applied to living situations where the residents have common values or vision for their collective lifestyle, these communes are attracting boomers who have fond memories of life on the commune.

It’s estimated that there about 4,000 intentional communities and the Fellowship for Intentional Community has a substantial directory organizing them by type and location. There may be as many as 100,000 people residing in these communes

For many, the attraction is a simpler back-to-the-land lifestyle and a distaste for the materialism outside the commune. They may have outgrown the concept in their twenties and moved on to the conventional material world, only to find that now that they are in their sixties, they miss the spirit of collective living.

The newest trend is for first-timers who are taking a serious look at co-op housing options. The living quarters are smaller but there’s much more common space that is shared by all. It’s a recipe for interdependence that many boomers find most appealing.

Can you really live out your final years on a commune? old hippiesHard to say. Commune members from the earliest days in the late 60s are just now reaching that place in life. A few never left the commune and have marked their 40th anniversary there. If you’re an aging boomer, you would have to think long and hard about whether the commune’s collective spirt can support you well into your final days. Part of the equation is attracting younger commune members who will take on the task of supporting the oldest residents.

So it’s a gamble for many returnees, who have to hope that the communal spirit will be sufficient to meet their needs. But it may not be any riskier than any other retirement plan that relies on property values, investment success, good health and a decent social security benefit.


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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