Saturday, July 28, 2018

Eco-cohousing for Elders: A project dear to our hearts

One of the things that a lot of people don't get around to doing as they get into old age is to make plans for how they are going to spend the last stage of their lives. All too often, they just drift along, year after year, until one day they reach the point where they can no longer cope with the tasks of daily life and someone else has to step in and make decisions for them—frequently, decisions with which they are not at all happy.

In all the years I spent working in community health, I saw this pattern over and over again. Families, social workers, community health nurses, all faced with the dilemma of what to do with an elderly person who was no longer able to live comfortably—or even safely—in his or her own home and yet was stubbornly resisting the need to move somewhere else. And in so many cases, the solution that was eventually found was really not a happy one, from anyone's point of view. Very few of us really want to end our lives in a nursing home.

The time to plan and made decisions and come up with the sort of solutions that we are sure we shall be happy with is now, while we are still able and flexible and creative enough to think it through.

Furthermore, it is now a well-established fact that loneliness and isolation shorten lives. Like so many other species, from sparrows to wolves to elephants, we humans need a tribe. We need community. We need others around us. Yet, being modern humans with a well-developed sense of self, we also need some space and solitude, especially the introverts among us. Cohousing is the perfect solution. and since an elder cohousing community - unlike an ordinary retirement community -  is designed by the people who are going to live in it, we know we shall end up living with compatible and like-minded people.

So a few years ago, Sky and I came across the concept of eco-cohousing for elders, we knew this was the solution we wanted for ourselves. Not only is elder eco-cohousing a sensible, creative solution for how to live happily and creatively to the end of our days but, being community based, it is also eminently sustainable and ideal for our 21st Century. Pioneered in Denmark and rapidly gaining popularity in the USA and elsewhere, cohousing communities for elders provide not only the ideal blend of privacy and togetherness that intergenerational ones do but are also specially adapted to the specific needs of older people in ways that range from accessible structures to shared in-house care.

We are now part of a group that is planning our own elder eco-cohousing community in the county where we live. Right now, we are still in the early stages. I shall be setting up a separate blog, at some point, to give details and updates about all this. And I shall be announcing that here when it is ready. So watch this space…