We live in a society that over time has become increasingly individualistic, at least in the urban environment: everyone cares about their own lives and those of their immediate surroundings, but the feeling has been lost. of community and union with the rest of the people that surround us.
This tendency to individualism is gradually becoming more perceptible, and with the passage of time have emerged alternative ways and models of life that, theoretically, try to generate community. An example of this is cohousing, which we will talk about throughout this article.
What is cohousing?
It is known as cohousing, or in Spanish covivienda, a model or style of community that involves the creation of a self-managed community in which coexistence is centered on the community and cooperation with the rest of its members.
Based on solidarity with the rest of the community and with an organization that works democratically, it is a type of organization that involves the generation of a socio-community support network and in which there is great cohesion among the people who form part of her.
This type of community is usually configured around one or (more usually), multiple houses or individual buildings with different shared common areas where social and community life takes place. Each of the users or inhabitants of a cohousing is an active part of this community, and is also responsible for participating in the management of this.
Although the name may make it seem otherwise, cohousing does not necessarily imply that everyone lives in the same house and without any privacy: although there are cases in which they are built and cohabited in multi-family dwellings, usually each individual or family He has his own house.
Each member of this community has its own personal and economic autonomy. Now, sometimes in this type of societies the economic system may tend to reduce or eliminate the idea of private property to favor the collective (although its economy is not shared), and trade based on the exchange or exchange of services.
Main characteristics of cohousing
One of the main bases of a cohousing is that it is based, as we have seen previously, on solidarity and on the search for social cohesion and active participation in the community.
Another of them is sustainability, since it is based on a design directly thought for the use that is going to be provided to each of the spaces. In addition, it allows to use and return to life in areas that are little inhabited or in the process of being abandoned, as these communities can use these areas, remodel them and live in them (something that also allows them to recover or keep alive the history of those places).
It is also common for community spaces to find elements that allow the management and production of their own resources, such as orchards.
In addition to this, as one of the most relevant bases of cohousing we can mention the way to organize and make decisions. There is no hierarchical structure (although it is possible for an individual to take a leadership role in some aspect in which he decides to specialize).
The relationship to homes can be variable. The most common is that the houses are not the property of the individual, but of the community, of which the user has a lifetime usufruct, and are designed or adapted to the needs of the subject. In this sense they have the advantage that they do not suppose an economic expense as high as the one that would suppose to maintain a home of their own.
Last, but not least, it allows to reduce problems such as the aforementioned loneliness and the need for care without having to lose independence at the individual level, at the same time that a collaborative culture is generated and a common bond between the members of the created society.
Implementation in the third age: senior cohousing
Cohousing is a trend that although it is not especially known, it is gradually becoming more popular. Its history is not so recent: its most modern origins are in the sixties, specifically in Denmark, from where it was expanding in the Nordic countries and the United States. Since then, different modalities have emerged, of which one of the most widespread at present (at least in Spain) is the one that has to do with the elderly.
The reason why the popularity of this type of community organization has increased in this sector is the existence of two of the most painful blights that a large number of elderly people may have to face: loneliness and, in the case of people with few resources, poverty.
Many people resort to cohousing because it allows maintaining an organization based on solidarity and social cohesion, in addition to greatly reducing the economic cost of maintaining a house or a rental today.
And not only that: one of the social implications of this type of cohousing is that it leaves aside a paternalistic vision of old age, in which the old man himself was seen as a rather passive subject. Instead, the activity of the elderly person is promoted as someone with experience and with the need to participate in the world around him, giving him responsibility and the possibility of exercising different types of social functions according to community needs.