Learning lessons from Cohousing, Ecohousing and ElderSpirit

Ever since I learned about the concept of cohousing, I felt that it could truly be a wonderful “solution” for “aging” solutions.

If you don’t know what Cohousing is, here is a definition from Cohousing Association:

Cohousing residents are consciously committed to living as a community. The physical design encourages both social contact and individual space. Private homes contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to extensive common facilities such as open space, courtyards, a playground and a common house.

Sounds pretty good? If we live in neighborhoods where we know and take care of each other, it reduces our need to rely on traditional “aging services” for support.

Last weekend I attended the Mid Atlantic Cohousing Conference at University of Maryland. The dialogue at the conference confirmed I am definitely not alone in my thinking about cohousing; one of the fastest growing segments in this housing market niche is “seniors cohousing”.

However, I went to the conference with somewhat of a mindset against seniors cohousing, my thought was a neighborhood that didn’t segregate by age would be the best environment to celebrate and utilize the wisdom and resources of elders.

That all changed when I heard Dene Peterson speak about Elderspirit, a cohousing community she founded in southwest Virginia. Dene had great energy and countless lessons to share in developing this unique and vibrant community.  One of the best things I took away from her presentation was how living in a cohousing community required “work” which helps provides a sense of purpose for all the residents.  This I feel tends to the exact opposite of the perception of senior housing, most people view our current models focus on “not working” and letting everyone do things for you. 

I hope that we begin to see more ways of blending this “spirit” into traditional senior housing settings!


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