Katie's Insights on "The Cycle of Life" as seen through the lens of cohousing

From CoHousing Solutions' newsletter published Dec 2017.

 Advent Circle, Nevada City Cohousing

Advent Circle, Nevada City Cohousing

As we approach the Winter Solstice, I’ve been thinking of the full cycle of life we get to experience here in my intergenerational community, Nevada City Cohousing. I suspect that I am not the only one that finds this to be one of the more profound appreciations for living in community, for ourselves and for our children. 

The Winter Solstice Spiral is a beloved tradition at Nevada City Cohousing that inspires contemplation on every stage of life...

In the last weeks my community has been holding so much love for so many. For one neighbor who recently died, too young as she was just in her early 50’s, the community has been there to support her and her family in any way we can. And in return she shared and taught us so much. Another neighbor mentioned that her mother, who lives a few blocks away, had become close with this woman, and that sharing her passing has opened up an opportunity to talk with her mother about death. “What a gift (our neighbor) has given me,” she tells me. 

On a recent Saturday night, another neighbor held his 46th birthday party in the common house with a rock-and-roll band made up of his fellow junior high teachers. Softening us up, he fed the community tacos and his new home-brew, made from hops grown here and brewed in the common house. Can’t get much more local than that! And that also helped to soften any complaints about the rock and roll band later…good technique.

 Breaking bread together is at the heart of cohousing.

Breaking bread together is at the heart of cohousing.

And then Sunday afternoon, all the women of the community, from 3 to 80, gathered in the common house to celebrate another neighbor’s pregnancy. We are all so excited to have a new baby coming! We shared stories, wishes, cake and tea. One neighbor is coordinating our community quilt for the baby. Another neighbor is knitting blankets for the new baby, and the baby’s older brother, while she worries about her husband’s cancer returning. 

In cohousing, all of these major life events can happen at home with much more support from the community.

Written by Katie McCamant of CoHousing Solutions

Cohousing in Great Britain - a tipping point

Charles Durrett is a leading expert in cohousing, not only because he knows and understands the process, but because he has the experience to back it up. With over 50 years of experience, Chuck lives the cohousing process and can work with others to realize it in themselves. His impact is worldwide, reaching far across the Big Pond, where cohousing is being embraced. 

Watch this video featuring OWCH.

In 2010, Chuck and Katie went to Britain and energized what is now a strong and supported cohousing movement. Old Women’s Co-Housing (OWCH). OWCH had been trying to get started for almost ten years and were dangerously close to giving up. Sarah Berger, and the UK Cohousing Network organized to have Katie and Chuck meet with OWCH and Hanover Housing Association, the involved parties. They worked through the nitty-gritty details—two hours of which was spent on trust alone—and in the end, they were able to move forward with the project, knowing that each side was going to uphold their side of the agreement. They walked up the ladder until finally a contract was signed, the project designed, and, at last, built.                                                                                           

In total, Katie and Chuck spent eight days in the UK, which included giving five public presentations. These presentations helped OWCH and other groups gather more members and move forward with their projects. The process that OWCH used and most of the new groups use is outlined in The Senior Cohousing Handbook: A Community Approach to Independent Living. Their efforts stimulated over 50 projects to be built in the UK, many with the support of a government and society who knows the value of community.

Since then, resources like SAGE Cohousing International (SCI) have been introduced to North America to provide resources to seniors interested in senior cohousing. SCI is a nonprofit organization whose board is comprised of experts in gerontology, cohousing, development, and team management. For more information on SCI, click below. 

OWCH members realized that they must be proactive about their future and what a bright future they have! It goes to show that, if you follow the cohousing process that is outlined already, getting your cohousing neighborhood designed and built is possible and much less work than reinventing the wheel. It is hard work, a thrilling ride, but the result is well worth the journey and it lasts for years to come.

The value of thinking about the "things"

Village Hearth Cohousing recently completed the Design Development and Prioritization Workshops (Workshops 5 and 6) with McCamant & Durrett Architects. Through the years, groups often ask me, “why do the workshops matter?” My answer is simple: Cohousing isn’t about reinventing the wheel. As you read on, you’ll see how the later workshops are just as important as the earlier ones and why each plays an integral role in the success of a cohousing community– in making it theirs, the one that fits like a glove, one that they own, emotionally. They are where trust it built. These participatory design workshops are where the community is built, not brick-by-brick but decision-by-decision.


Design Development:

At the surface, the Design Development Workshop (Workshop 5) is focused on stuff: hundreds of commercial products. The details and even the “stuff” have a profound impact on the success of communities, right alongside large-scale decisions like the site plan and common house design.

For example, consider your windows. A typical homebuilder in your area might select one window brand, while we might select another. There are many other reasons we have selected this window, but ease of operation and clarity of view alone make it ideal for senior cohousing; as you walk home and see a neighbor at the sink doing some dishes, you can wave to them, they can easily and quickly open the window, and you can chat or make a date to meet up at the common house. Altogether, the ensemble of products will form a tapestry that makes your house and your community feel like home.

This workshop is also important for the success of a community in the context of the development process. The Design Development Workshop is not just about energy efficiency, but that’s a big part of it. The process we facilitate -- based on years of experience and researching specifics to your region -- will enable you as a group to arrive at high-quality decisions by making effective use of your time and effort.



This workshop is where costs that are perceived to be potentially above the budget are prioritized. Amenities are prioritized based on lifestyle, sustainability, facilitating community and all of the other goals and values of the group. Some amenities can be offered as options on a household-by-household basis (e.g. washing machines hook-ups, etc.) and others omitted completely (and others added.) The workshop process ensures that all members’ input is included and evaluated, at the same time, with all the necessary information on the table, using a very deliberate process.

The Prioritization Workshop is a very values-laden workshop. While reconciling little creature comforts, it will be important and sometimes challenging to keep the big picture in mind (community, cost, aesthetics). Though these little creature comforts are equally important because if we’re going to make community real, we have to make it even more comfortable than typical homes—which turns out to be very easy to do.

Both Design Development and Prioritization Workshops symbolize a huge step forward to getting a cohousing community built, including maintain a control on budget and finding what works for the entire community. This structured and intentional process allows groups to arrive at high-quality decisions in a matter of months, rather than other communities we have watched arrive at lower-quality decision after years of wasted time and energy, too much acrimony, and too many people dropping out of the group as a result.


If you’re interested in learning more about how the design workshops can influence the creation of your community, let’s talk.

The True Costs of Senior Housing


Written by Lindy Sexton, based on an interview with Arthur Okner of Silver Sage Village in Boulder, CO

“We at Silver Sage strive to age-in-place. Given the caring support of our community, we can do so a lot longer than in many other aging care models,” says Art Okner. “Getting older is a long, fulfilling journey for most—you have a caring family, a good job, activities that you enjoy, and friends to share experiences with. These things ebb and flow in a thing we call life, and it’s hard to think of the future until one day you are there. The future belongs to those who recognize and prepare for aging.”

In his search for the optimal housing scenario Art found that, as a middle-class older adult, options are extremely limited. The current aging care model is an expensive process that promises little to no security or return on investment. Art researched a well-known Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in Boulder. The CCRC requires nearly $250,000 to get in (for a small studio), then $3,000 to $7,000 per month after that (depending on type of care needed), very little of which is returned if you move out or die. “They are very choosy about who they accept financially because if you run out of money they must keep you,” describes Art. In another “non-continuous” care model, Art found out that, if you do run out of money, the facility will “place” you in a government or other such program and forget about you.

Art chose to live in Silver Sage Cohousing in Boulder, Colorado. He owns his home and has a secure financial plan. Art has his independence, but most importantly, he is surrounded by caring neighbors, who as a group, discuss how they can support each other as they age and become frail.

Living in senior cohousing was a no-brainer for him. “Senior cohousing is planning for your future in wholesale terms because there is no profit motive. [It] is the cheapest option in town,” says Art, “clearly the social benefits are there [common meals several times a week, for instance], but it makes sense economically too. Even if a senior cohousing resident needs regular outside care “a la carte” the costs are cheaper than institutional options. Senior cohousing should be on the short list of housing options explored by everyone at this stage in life. You can’t afford not to.”

Join the conversation! On May 19, SAGE Cohousing International will facilitate Senior Cohousing: A Roadmap to Starting a New Community, an all-day intensive on senior cohousing. Participants will have the opportunity to listen to members of Quimper Village, a new senior cohousing community being built in Port Townsend, WA, and cohousing expert Charles Durrett. This is your chance to have your questions answered and begin to envision what aging in community looks like for you.

Sign up now by clicking here.

If you would like more information about Silver Sage Cohousing, visit www.silversagevillage.com or email Art at renko2828@gmail.com and arrange a conversation or a visit.



SAGE Cohousing International and Quimper Villagers Co-present at the Conference

 Written by members of Quimper Village

We are thrilled to announce that three members of Quimper Village will co-present Senior Cohousing: A Roadmap to Starting a New Community with Chuck Durrett at the 2017 National Cohousing Conference from May 19-21. Carolyn, Pat, and David H. will talk about how they successfully formed a group, the importance of having roles with a group, and the latest updates on their favorite cohousing community, Quimper Village.  The all-day intensive will include valuable information for anyone looking to start their own senior cohousing project and participants will have the chance to brainstorm what their scenario will look like through breakout sessions and small group conversation.

Creating a senior cohousing community can be an exciting and very fulfilling life event, if the group knows what they’re doing. Quimper Villagers benefited greatly from finding complimentary skills from members within their group, and hiring Chuck Durrett (McCamant & Durrett Architects) and Katie McCamant (CoHousing Solutions) as consultants on the project. Through guidance and with a steadfast vision, Quimper Village is now nearing move-in in record timing.


Are you looking for the next steps to creating your senior cohousing community? Sign up today for Senior Cohousing: A Roadmap to Staring a New Community and then check out these two blogs for more information:  “Looking for the Next Steps in Creating Your Senior Cohousing Community?” and “The Roadmap and Why It’s Important to Have One".

The 2017 National Cohousing Conference offers a wide variety of topics of interest to co-housers from getting a favorable mortgage to running an effective meeting. There is still time to register for the conference being held in Nashville on May 18-21. We hope to see you there!