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…


Anonymous said...

Good idea thanks

Ru said...

Hi Marian are you in Devon ~ Hartland? Am involved with regenerative settlement project in Devon. Would be interested to hear from you. Best wishes Ru

Gemma's person said...

I heard something on the radio today that made me think about you.
Someone said there father had plans to just move in to a long term stay hotel later in life . It is cheaper than the nursing homes here. I also heard later that other folks are planning on living on cruise ships.
I can see that working for some folks. I am sure other things like that would work as well.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to be "anonymous" but I don't have a Google account.

I have checked out some co-housing (two co-housing books) and I'm not sure it looks any different to an assisted living complex - warden on site, etc. Also some co-housing projects include families for an age mix. I'm single and like peace and children running around, thank you.

How would co-housing for elders differ from the already available "retirement flats" et.?

My ideal would be a community that shared without imposing. People would be there for you if you needed them, and you would be there for them. Ideally they would be people with similar life values. Sharing might include a communal car, an allotment etc. maybe a meeting hall for communal events.

I have a friend in an independent housing group : a flat, a warden (sometimes!) on site, an emergency phone etc. but there is no particular sense of community and sometimes quite a bit of friction, particularly about using parts of the garden. This has made life unpleasant for one resident. A new resident tried to get some communal spirit going - started a small in-house magazine, checked out places for group weekends away, but it all fell through. No support.

I just wonder if co-housing for elders might end up as elders in little boxes.

Joared said...

This is right up my alley. Started a group at our local Sr. Center a year ago, “Thriving In Place” for those who not only want to age and live in place but to thrive. I’ll refer them to your blog since the option you suggest is a very important one to consider.

Wondered where you were, so glad to find your blog again and look forward to your new one.