Ross Chapin Pocket Neighborhood
Ross Chapin Pocket Neighborhood

I’ve always been a bit of an envision-er (read: dreamer) when it comes to my future. I can project what I want the future to look like and work towards that goal. Sometimes my vision comes to fruition and sometimes it changes. Lately, I’ve been envisioning my future living in a small-ish house surrounded by other small houses set around a community garden and fire pit. This vision is a place where neighbors work equally together, hang out in the lush community edible garden, and sing songs around a roaring fire. Maybe that’s just the hippy in me trying to get out. But my focus is where I want to live through retirement; a community where neighbors help neighbors.

As I shared this vision with my spouse, he quickly slapped a dose of reality on me and said, “There’s no such place. You’re dreaming of utopia. It doesn’t work.” His words weren’t quite as harsh as he chuckled at the thought of himself tending vegetables in a commune-style living arrangement. (See links at the end of this post for some close fits of this style of living.)

I personally don’t know of any community where this style of living is occurring, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Living in a neighborhood where your neighbors are helpful seems beneficial on many levels, especially as we inch closer to retirement.

First, let me explain that this would be a community that I’d want to grow into with like-minded, similar aged people. It isn’t necessarily where I’d want to move to during my retirement years. Growing old with people you know is comforting on some levels; you have a history with those neighbors and would more likely than not  have deep, meaningful conversations well into old age.

The benefits of finding a small-ish house in the perfect neighborhood would mean the house would potentially be paid off in full by the time we were 65, a definite plus during retirement. As income becomes finite, the bills need to be finite as well. Having a mortgage payment or even rent isn’t ideal.

Tending a garden with others could mean less work (hopefully!) for the same amount of bounty. It would also keep us healthy by adding fresh fruit and veggies to our diet at a minimal price. The exercise would be an excellent way to keep health costs low, an important consideration during retirement.

Sharing common land would mean lower costs and less work for maintaining a lawn.  As people get older, it gets harder to keep up the benefits of outdoor space. Sharing the space would mean sharing the expense, even if it means hiring gardeners to tend to the lawn as we aged.

As people get older, it’s not uncommon for their mobility to be reduced. If I lived in a collaborative neighborhood, we could share the expense of an occasional cab ride or combine our shopping lists and have groceries delivered.

All of these sound like terrific benefits to living in an “utopian” style community, especially with retirement in mind. The closest I’ve found are pocket communities designed by Ross Chapin Architects. I’ve posted about this designer before and I love his home designs. This might be a future possibility.

Though these may not discuss specific neighborhoods, these additional resources share some ideas that I’ve explained in my ideal community:

  • Wasatch Community Garden
  • Green Towns
  • Inhabitat
  • Sponsored by Inhabitat: Re-Burbia (this is what I envision in my ideal neighborhood – shared backyards!)

What’s your vision of retirement? Neighborhoods?


  1. As someone who will retire (again) in 6 years, there is not such thing as a perfect neighborhood. We down sized 14 years ago to a townhouse and like it. Our next step may be a one story condo or house. What really is important is to be close to family and friends. This will extend your quality of life more than the physical.

  2. @krantcents
    That’s what my husband says. 😉 I love the idea of one of these pocket neighborhoods, but I can see that with only 8-16 houses facing each other, if you don’t jive with your neighbors, it could be a nightmare. As for retirement, you’re right; having close relations with family and friends is very important. But I’m still pining away for the perfect little house in the perfect little neighborhood.

  3. Squirrelers Reply

    I think your ideas make sense. Certainly when we’re older, we’ll need less room. I’ve seen it with people, they just don’t need the same space. Plus, less space means it should be more manageable to run a household. Also, many people move from detatched homes to attached homes as the get older, perhaps not just due to less space needed but also a sense of community and having others around to help each other just in case.

  4. Well if you expand your community to include a bigger radius, then I’m definitely living that dream and I can’t imagine a better place to be. My mom’s neighborhood is a little more like this (and the houses are smaller) but we share vegetables, dig each other out after storms. Bring over baked goods to each other, give a helping hand on house projects. You have to put the time in to go out of your way to give, but eventually people do give back as well. It’s just fantastic. If you want this community, start now by giving to the people around you and it can be any old thing. Sometimes I give a bouquet of flowers to my elderly neighbor, other times, it’s home made food.

    Live it, love it, enjoy it. You don’t need it to be within a 2 block radius. You just need to find like minded people to share the bounty with.

    • @First Gen American – It sounds like you are living this dream and that’s wonderful! You’re right, I guess as long as I find a neighborhood with like minded people, and share these ideas with family (though, I don’t live near my family, so maybe that’s part of it) and friends it doesn’t have to be within the same block.

  5. Barb Friedberg Reply

    I’ve read about some of these types of situations. The key is to be compatible with the neighbors… if not it could be very bad. I’m excited about moving to a condo next month from a house, smaller and lots of neighbers to choose from 🙂

  6. I saw one of these types of neighborhoods on House Hunters a few weeks ago. It was in Phoenix, I think. Anyway, it was pretty neat. I’d love it and my husband would hate it.

    I like to be around people and he’s less social. I think we may move to a community for 55 plus when I retire. I want it to be filled with my generation though, not my parents.

    • @Bucksome Boomer – It’s funny you should mention that; my husband had pretty much said “no way” to this kind of living environment. He’d prefer to see his neighbors with a binocular! We’ll have to find a happy medium.

  7. Amanda L Grossman Reply

    I think that there are people like you out there as well. I have heard of communities that are very active and are almost like a commune. I’ll bet you can find one!

    • the community in AZ is in Gilbert and it’s called Agritopa.

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