Aging is inevitable. How we live into it is our choice.
Read about a few of the ways cohousing helps us have more enjoyment, connection, intellectual stimulation, and good health as we age.
ENJOY YOUR OWN HOME AS YOU AGE
Home is an important part of identity and belonging. Most people would prefer to stay in their own homes as long as possible---and studies show people are happier and feel better at home. And most people feel better connected to others. Cohousing provides the best of both worlds.
Homes designed specifically to encourage “aging in place” include things like:
- Peaceful seating areas with doors and windows that maximize natural light and views of the outdoors.
- Automatic lighting systems, climate control systems, and remote control security alarms.
- Warm floor coverings, heated floors, and comfortable temperature control.
- Limited stairs, along with safety features like railings and non-slip flooring.
- Bathtubs and showers that are easy to step into and make it easy to get clean while standing or sitting.
- Easy-to-access storage such as towel and robe hooks at eye level, recessed storage, etc.
- Wider doorways and counter tops at lower heights for possible wheel chair use.
- Good acoustics in the common house.
Architects and designers are continuously innovating with new functional and stylish design for homes we can age into. Cohousing communities are also deliberately designed for connection with others, a crucial aspect of being able to age in place.
INDEPENDENCE THROUGH INTERDEPENDENCE
Interdependence is mutual reliance between two or more people or groups—the degree to which members of the group depend on each other for support.
Interdependence between members of a cohousing community is a natural outcome of sharing common property, living in close proximity, creating bonds through social activities, and getting to know each other while managing the community.
Many things are easier and more enjoyable when done together. Sharing a trip to the grocery store, cooking a meal together, helping each other re-pot plants or even tackling a deep cleaning or other chores--this give-and-take relationship is satisfying and helps us accomplish more than we each could do alone.
Interdependence is a key difference from progressive care retirement villages, where paid caretakers provide services and residents become dependent, without a way to contribute to others.
LIFE LONG LEARNING
As we phase out of parenting and careers, many of us have time and energy to learn new skills and fuel our intellectual curiosity. Research on the benefits of continued learning as we age is very clear: Use it or lose it! People who continue to learn new information, skills and ways to be in service, stay healthier in the long run.
Cohousing is a natural place for continuous learning. Cohousing members often:
Develop new skills through the operation of the community: property management, consensus decision making, non-violent communication, and universal design planning.
Create libraries, book study groups, music classes, yoga studios, art and woodshop rooms, sewing and quilting groups, film clubs, cooking clubs, and more.
Carpool, walk or take public transportation together to classes, performances, art museums, concerts, lectures, etc.
Participate in the Learning in Retirement model of peer learning and active participation in study groups designed specifically for those ages 50+.
Many colleges and universities are establishing these centers.
CULTIVATING MEANING AND PURPOSE
Meaning and purpose has to do with having a sense of peace and wellbeing. It also relates to developing beliefs around the meaning of life and connection to others, and being in relationship with something bigger than yourself.
Cohousing encourages contemplation, connection, and experience by its very nature, by:
- Helping us connect with each other regularly.
- Helping us learn about ourselves through the commitment and effort needed to live together in harmony.
- Experiencing belonging and breaking us out out of loneliness and isolation.
- Being part of creating something larger than ourselves.
- Creating shared spaces designed for both connection and private spaces for reflection.
SAGING - THE WISDOM OF AGE
The concept of “saging”, described by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in his book “From Aging to Sage-ing (www.sage-ing.org), expresses the belief that our usefulness as people has no expiration date; we are never “over the hill.” Rather we have a great deal to give back to this world that has given us so much.
The qualities of a sage are:
- Spiritual centeredness
- Intellectual curiosity
Some of the practices that rise from these qualities include:
- Sensing deeper questions
- Compassionate listening
- Having a nonjudgmental attitude
- Taking a non-adversarial stance toward others
- Showing comfort with diverse points of view
The community nature of cohousing provides a perfect opportunity for the residents to experience each other, cultivate a wise and compassionate approach, and continue to give back to others. This mutual exchange can enhance the lives of everyone involved. Beyond the cohousing community, this approach will help us in our relationships to others in our families and communities—letting us live into the time-honored role of village elders.
MAKING PEACE WITH DEATH AND DYING
Woven into the warp and woof of existence, the presence of death deepens our appreciation of life. The more we embrace our mortality not as an aberration of nature, but as an agent urging us on to life completion, the more our anxiety transforms into feelings of awe, thanksgiving and appreciation.
One of the reasons we in this society fear death so much is because we don’t see it. We send old people off to the nursing home or hospital to die, then to the funeral home and crematorium or cemetery. Our detachment from this part of the process of life makes it frightening and mysterious.
The ability to age, get sick and die in community makes the process a continuity of a lifetime of belonging. If we can live within a group of caring friends who will be with us as we face this final chapter, it enhances the process for all.
A RETURN TO THE TRIBE OR VILLAGE
In many ways, cohousing recreates the tribes and villages that kept groups of humans alive for millennia before modern culture and technology. We wouldn’t have survived as a species without living together--today we can capture all that was good about those earlier communities by designing a more enjoyable, connected and purposeful experience of aging.