Being organized is being in control. While senior living facilities are taking steps to support their residents more than ever before, they still cannot offer what senior cohousing groups can. One way to begin this process is by taking Study Group 1, or SG1, (discussed below and in Chapter 7 of The Senior Cohousing Handbook: A Community Approach to Independent Living ). Participants recognize that they actually have a lot of say in their aging scenario and only in community can they express what they want in a proactive way. In SG1, facilitators take groups through various aspects of their “getting older” scenarios. In a period of 10 weeks, the group discusses how they, as a consortium, can be the solution, planning for their years ahead so when the time comes, they are supported by people they know and trust.
After SG1, senior cohousing groups go through a series of workshops which develop cohesiveness and clarity within, along with setting expectations and later co-designing the community of their dreams. It is important to note at this point that none of this can happen without the group being on the same page and out of denial. Cohousing communities aren’t created by one visionary, but by many who share in the vision and, through consensus and being prepared, can decide what is best for all.
What is Senior Cohousing
Senior cohousing communities like Quimper Village are being built across the U.S. The U.K., Europe, and Canada have also seen an upsurge in cohousing groups coming together, and other countries are not far behind. The concept originated in Denmark in the latter part of the 20th century as older adults began voicing their desire to live independently, in community. In the 1980s, Charles Durrett (Principal Architect, McCamant & Durrett Architects) and Kathryn McCamant (CoHousing Solutions) coined the name “cohousing” and popularized it in the U.S. with their book, Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves. Durrett later authored The Senior Cohousing Handbook: A Community Approach to Independent Living, a book that is used by many senior cohousing communities around the world, including those in Denmark. He has since designed about a dozen 55+ cohousing communities and has consulted on many more.
Senior cohousing is a type of community for adults 55 and older that are:
1. Co-created and co-managed;
2. Physical design and orientation that encourages community interaction and supports aging in place including extensive common facilities and private homes;
3. Regular common meals;
4. Mutual support systems that include interdependence during illness and convalescence;
5. Continued “saging” and embracing the aging process;
6. Decisions based on consensus;
7. No shared income and community is not a source of income for members.
From the outside, senior cohousing has many different shapes. Some are suburban while others are in high-density cities. For example, Oakcreek Cohousing in Stillwater, Oklahoma consists of 24 private homes on 7.5 acres, whereas Mountain View Cohousing, in Mountain View, California has 19 units on 0.9 acres. Each has unique qualities within the neighborhood, but all adhere to the proven criteria that make up senior cohousing—and for good reason.
While “cohousing-like” developments are being erected (developer-designed senior housing with common amenities is a common example,) these projects tend not to work as efficiently as cohousing, from a community standpoint. The cohousing process is one that requires the input of the group from the start. It has been developed over decades and has proven to be effective in creating trust and dependability within the group. This topic has gained a lot of traction lately as more people are preferring community models over single-family homes, which is why it is more important than ever that people know what works and what doesn’t. It is important to clearly define what cohousing is instead of reinventing the wheel if it is to continue to have the same positive results generation after generation.