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Not Your Mother’s Retirement Home

New communities put music or other creative pursuits at the center

Part of the Artful Aging Special Report

Every year, Jerry Myroup travels to Jamaica with his wife to rock out to the band Little Feat. They like the fan appreciation resort weekends so much that they started wondering how they could live like this all the time, for the rest of their lives. Could they actually rock till they drop?

“It all began as a joke,” Myroup says. But that funny thought sparked some serious conversation. “We thought this is just perfect— people who like to be around each other, a lot of them are musicians. When we get older, how will we be around the music that we want to hear?” The answer: create a retirement community where rock and roll lovers can grow old together called — what else? — Rock Til You Drop.

Rock Till You Drop: Home Sweet Home

Myroup, who plays guitar and drums, jams with a band called the Old Farts, lives in northwest Indiana and plans to retire in five years, has put up a website to gauge interest in the idea.

“We had a lot of interest, but the problem is getting people to put up money for a vision,” he says. Still, about 20 people so far are onboard. Now they just need to find a place to live the dream of a co-housing community for aging rockers.

A growing body of research suggests that creativity and artistic expression contribute to healthy aging.

“We found that trying to find a location that is suitable for most people is a little difficult when you’re all over the country,” said Myroup. But the rocking pre-retirees have narrowed down their parameters. The goal is to find property that is affordable in an area with a low cost of living; within an hour of an international airport; near a good hospital, cultural venues and a college campus; and, surprise, surprise, marijuana tolerant. The top states the group is considering: North Carolina, Tennessee, California, Oregon and Arizona.

They might buy an RV park. The way Myroup sees it, there are a couple of advantages to that: “It gives us the ability to have people who want to live in tiny houses — a lot of people don’t have a lot of money saved up, especially if they’re musicians and artists. It also gives us an avenue to have people come in, see what we’re doing and stay a couple weeks in their RVs.”

Visitors will be welcomed. “You never know who’s going to stop by and that’s the whole premise of Rock Til You Drop,” he says. “You have the ability to play and jam without having to get in your car. It works out good for everybody.”

Getting Creative About Creating Community

Lydia Manning thinks Myroup is onto something with his co-housing scheme, and not just because she likes to jam, too. As a gerontologist with Concordia University in Chicago, Manning studies resilience and aging. The founding members of Rock Til You Drop are the subjects of her latest research project.

“I’m interviewing them, asking what does it mean to you, how are you conceptualizing it, how does it shape your imagined aging, how are you going about planning for it,” she says. “I do think these types of communities are going to be gaining in popularity. I think you’ll see a trend of people wanting to craft space, rather than just pick a place and go. The marketplace is going to have to change in terms of our options for people.”

There’s a good reason for that to happen: A growing body of research suggests that creativity and artistic expression contribute to healthy aging. Creativity is linked to decreased stress, better cognitive health, self-acceptance and a sense of purpose. Gay Hanna, executive director of the National Center for Creative Aging, observes that “art is spiritual and it’s community building.”

Co-housing with like-minded people, of course, only makes it easier to pursue your interests. “Aging in place and age-friendly communities are going to make it more conducive for these informal groupings of artists and interest groups to form,” Hanna says.

Putting Art at the Heart

Emilie Parker, 64, is already doing it. She’s a sculptor and painter; her husband is a scriptwriter. “Fun for me is doing art and being around artists,” she says. “When I think of what I want to do with my life, artist co-housing is perfect. I don’t want to be alone, I want to be with my friends, and I want privacy, too. I want to share art every single day. I don’t want to have to go somewhere or do something to make it happen.”

That’s why Parker founded Louisville Artists Cohousing near Boulder, Colo. Together with eight other painters, musicians and fabric artists, she and her husband are looking for property on which to build 24 homes. Although a majority of the core group is over 50, the community will be multigenerational.

Like all co-housing, it will have private households and a large common area where people can dine together and watch movies or exercise. In addition, Louisville Artists Cohousing will have art-making spaces in the common area and each household will have room for a home studio.

The group hopes to find property that is zoned residential and commercial, in order to build an additional 6,000-square-feet of studio space where outside artists could hold exhibitions and teach classes. The fees for using the space would help defray building costs.

Although members are not required to be artists, they should be art-loving. “The things that I value will be the same things that my neighbors value,” says Parker. “Community is a good thing for everybody — you get to take advantage of everybody’s skills and talents — it’s a healthier way to live.”


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