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It turned out that these same cohousing neighborhood design principles had a lot to offer aging Boomers, including:
- Shared guest rooms to accommodate visiting family members or shared long-term care providers, living independently rather than in your own house so you don’t get into that whole servant/master dynamic.
- Shared meals to keep people talking to one another and aware of significant events in each others’ lives
- Community connections that keep people active, because they know they’ll hear from their nice but nosy neighbor if they don’t get dressed and get the paper by noon.
Senior Cohousing, recently imported to the U.S. by Charles Durrett (decades after he brought over the original intergenerational form with his architect/author wife, Kathryn McCamant), is just getting off the ground here, with a handful of communities established in California, Virginia, and Colorado, and a couple dozen more in the development process. The Cohousing Association of the United States (Coho/US) is helping these bold pioneers challenging bureaucrats, land-use regulations, and their own fears that can keep them from realizing their visions.
Part of what is driving this movement, according to Durrett, is the tendency of Boomers to reinvent society's institutions as they engage them. “What is more audacious than 25 seniors deciding that they should build their own neighborhood?,” Durrett asks. “What is more audacious than 25 seniors deciding, ‘hell, they don’t know how to do it, we’re gonna figure out out how to do it.’ All these seniors should stay in their houses, not just be told to be happy in assisted care. This generation understands that the Stepford country is not where it’s at.”
The Danish national aging curriculum he is adapting for domestic consumption, helps people band together in “study groups” to talk about all the taboo topics of aging adults that are important to discuss before crises arise:
- co-care agreements
Through work together mapping these strange new (and old) territories, cohousers are able to efficiently partner with professional developers and co-create neighborhoods that will be able to better meet their needs, increasing the odds that they can remain in their homes over time without either becoming a burden to their neighbors or facing unreasonable obligations of unlimited support.