Let’s Grow Old Together
Growing old— it’s something that we all hope to do in good health, dignity and grace. But according to the Global Age Watch Index, the approach countries take on key pillars of elderly well being dictate how comfortably their citizens experience aging.
While some cultures have a long history of fostering multi-generational, supportive living environments, (like the centuries old Fujian Tulou’s of southern China) increasingly, current and upcoming generations of North American seniors will face concerns borne out of low density suburban living: isolation, difficulty commuting, and limited access to public transportation, community and vital services. Governments and communities may need to take more initiative to ensure that seniors have access to environments that are conducive to accessibility, active engagement and independence.
Popularized in Denmark and recently gaining steam throughout Europe, co-housing is an intergenerational model for community housing which could be a viable solution. Resident participation in the planning and development of a co-housing community ensures that seniors have a right to express what they want and need from their future homes. The design of a co-housing space is intended to foster community and social interaction, with common facilities where people can cook and share meals. A non-hierarchical and collective structure of management empowers seniors to be active decision makers in their community.
The cooperative nature of co-housing creates a built-in support system comprised of neighbours. They encourage community engagement which could delay the need for seniors to enter assisted living facilities. With estimates that by 2050, 31% of the the Canadian population will be elderly, co-housing is a timely solution that provides better aging in place, community, and support mechanisms.
The Senior Cohousing Handbook–2nd Edition, April 2013
[Top Image: Gisling via Wikipedia Commons. (An ancient example of co-housing can be seen in southern Chinese dwellings from mountainous, rural areas, known as Fujian Tulou. Some date back to the 12th century).]