Two Gen Xers Walk Into A Retirement Home…


I recently got a detailed email from a friend in the Pacific Northwest outlining a possible venture she and her husband are considering. I was one of several people they asked to review the proposal.

They’re around my age (I was born in 1967) and while they’re too young for retirement they understand it’s sneaking up on them.

They’ve participated in the care of elderly relatives and are keen to have a different less institutional experience for themselves when their time comes.

They’ve had some Covid related employment “rightsizing” that wasn’t exactly part of their original plan. But they have assets and cash set aside, live frugally with a low burn rate, are disciplined, and are both ridiculously fit and look like Vikings. So a business plan that integrates with their retirement trajectory seems reasonable. Their rough draft was four pages long and outlined various potential concepts including assisted living accommodations, farm co-op, tiny house village, et cetera. Here’s my interpretation of their elevator pitch. (My words, not theirs.)

Develop profitable senior housing in conjunction with regenerative farm-to-table agricultural, a supportive social environment, distinctive architecture, and natural beauty. Basically, provide retirees with a collection of cottages with good food, like-minded health-conscious people, and attractive surroundings - and make money doing it.

There was flexibility built into the proposal so the style, physical structure, and location of the property could stretch from rural to urban and take on different flavors. There’s wiggle room for adaptation, which I like. But the laundry list of theoretically appealing ingredients has to be reconciled with external reality.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years exploring different versions of these kinds of endeavors and they seem to fall into a few basic categories. There are pipe dreams that never come to fruition. My friends are too smart and grounded to go down that path.

There are other projects that endure decades of bureaucratic hurdles, multiple intertwined creative financing sources, non-profit 501(c)(3) status, endless tortured committees… Eventually some compromised version is hammered into submission and emerges in a functional form. Perhaps my friends have the stomach for this route.

Read the rest of this piece on Granola Shotgun.

Johnny Sanphillippo is an amateur architecture buff with a passionate interest in where and how we all live and occupy the landscape, from small rural towns to skyscrapers and everything in between. He travels often, conducts interviews with people of interest, and gathers photos and video of places worth talking about (which he often shares on Strong Towns). Johnny writes for Strong Towns, and his blog, Granola Shotgun.