By Midge Pierce

Portland may be a mecca for the young, but nearly a fourth of its population is over fifty. Most strive for a vibrant, active lifestyle. Few are prepared for the challenges that come with growing older.

Portland’s aging population, like its younger counterparts, is hit hard by rising housing costs. Rents, in some cases, have quadrupled since the recession subsided. Property tax increases can push seniors out of their longterm homes or apartments.

The time to make plans for living well is now, according to Debbie Durham, education coordinator for Life by Design at Portland Community College. “Making decisions about life transitions during a crisis is absolutely the wrong time.”

She knows firsthand how difficult elder care issues can be. More than a decade ago, she left her job in North Carolina to care and advocate for her mother suffering from dementia.

Life by Design is one of the sponsors of an upcoming October forum on housing alternatives for those 50 +  called  Where to Next? Creating Home Sweet Home! The forum will go beyond nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to explore ways to age in place.

Options include sharing rents or mortgages with roommates. Modular, manufactured homes or accessory dwelling units are affordable alternatives. Intentional housing such as those being developed by the LGBT and gay communities provide niche alternatives.

These options will be examined along with others such as co-housing units in which seniors jointly own properties and share common areas for dining, gathering and even gardening.

Last month, The Southeast Examiner explored a proposed co-housing project called PDX Commons on SE Belmont.

Another concept for aging in place is being developed by Eastside Village PDX as part of the nonprofit Villages NW, a so-called hub and spoke program.

It is not a physical facility but a membership collective; a kind of community without walls that will serve SE Uplift neighborhoods from the Willamette to 122nd, and from I-84 to Portland’s southern boundary.

Interested seniors within a specific geographic area pay membership dues for reduced cost services such as transportation and home repairs.

With several dozen members already signed up, Eastside Village plans to launch this month. To ensure that people with disabilities who are not yet seniors can access benefits, membership will be open to all residents in the area 18 years plus. To participate, contact: info@eastsidevillage.org.

Durham says the benefits of these types of services and housing alternatives is not just financial. Living with others who care about your needs provides moral and emotional support that can lead to better health overall.

For those needing to sell their homes, the ins and outs of downsizing will also be discussed during the forum.

“A lot of people 50+, know they need to make plans but are putting it off. The goal of this forum is to encourage and motivate planning before there is a crises.” says Durham.

The forum will be held October 31 at the PCC Climb Center on SE Water Ave. from 8 am – 12:30 pm.

For more information. see www.pcc.edu/climb/life/housing.html