Cohousing is more than just a buzzword. For many people it is already a project for the future, a model of collaborative and self-managed housing for adults who choose to live their old age in community. Townhouses, common spaces in which to share activities … And all in an ecological environment where you can enjoy nature and also solidarity.
And why not? We ask more than one. Why not take the step and plan with a group of friends the construction of one of these projects for tomorrow? Small houses, share resources and build a ‘senior’ community to suit our needs with people who are significant … Let’s face it, the idea is tempting, and more so if we consider the severe impact that loneliness and isolation is leaving on our elders .
Now, it should be noted that these projects are not new. Cohousing communities first appeared in Denmark in the 1970s. Later, and in the 1980s, the model was brought to the United States, especially to Oakland and Berkeley, Bellingham and Washington, taking advantage of the natural spaces most beautiful. At present, collaborative dwellings appear already in several countries in Europe and also in Japan.
Something that we have clear from a clinical aspect and health is that these projects (well organized) are very positive. The community model that abounds today does not facilitate human connection at all. In an increasingly advanced, connected and sophisticated society, it seems that in terms of our ideal of how we would like to grow old, we often dream of older and more traditional models.
The model of cohousing communities seeks a very clear goal: to improve the quality of life through infrastructures that predispose to social interaction.
Cohousing, solidarity, connection and quality of life
In a context of increasingly intense globalization, people are almost always under pressure. Our work project, for example, does not always fit the staff and family. Schedules, traveling long distances by car, living in increasingly smaller flats and environments saturated with pollution …
There are many factors why the cohousing model is becoming more and more important not only among the older population. Those who are interested in this type of project are really the youngest ones. Studies, such as the one carried out by Dr. Jo William, from the University of Manchester, in the United Kingdom, show us that what we most miss is the positive social interaction in our closest community.
Collaborative housing responds to an architectural and ecological model aimed at this same goal: to recreate a model of community conscious, supportive and socially connected.
Collaborative environments for all needs (and ages)
The cohousing model does not focus only on the elderly in search of a residential project. At present, there are many people who have taken the step to create this type of community neighborhoods. In them, they live from very young people who are clear about the lifestyle they want, families that start new stages, even successful professionals, divorced and of course, retired.
There is also an aspect that characterizes this type of infrastructures: there are houses that offer greater privacy in case privacy is prioritized, and there are also houses oriented to the constant social connection. Each person finds his model here; nevertheless, it should be noted that cohousing seeks above all collaboration and sharing time and resources.
Cohousing: the secret is in the balance
There are groups of friends who create cohousing communities basically from scratch. They buy land and build houses. Also, we can also find ready-to-live environments arranged as terraced houses, duplexes, apartments, etc.
Now, the most remarkable fact of these models, is undoubtedly the balance they achieve between the private aspect and the community aspect. Unlike the old ‘communes’, each person keeps their own income, and it is not necessary to sell products between neighbors and others to sustain the community economically.
As for the architectural layout, usually follow the same organizational guideline:
Within the community, there is a ‘common house’. It is the most outstanding area, since it is distributed in a large room for group dining if desired, a kitchen, playrooms for children, music areas, offices, libraries, workshops, laundries, a meeting room, etc.
The maintenance of these zones, as well as their organization, is carried out through self-government. Meetings are held periodically where tasks are distributed, events, projects, etc. are organized.
Cohousing communities and ecology
One of the most attractive aspects of cohousing, is undoubtedly the concept of environmentalism in which they are registered. It is a lifestyle that is very respectful with the environment. Not only are sites sought in natural environments. These houses designed to promote sociability and neighborhood try to stock up on natural energies such as solar panels.
To conclude, if cohousing seems like a good plan for the future, it should be noted that it is already very present. In almost any country in the world we find intergenerational communities enjoying this model of life. Abundant also those inhabited only by seniors, groups of friends who in the autumn of their life cycle choose to continue managing their day to day in a friendly and close scenario where loneliness no longer has a place.