Co-Living Communities and our Ageing Society: Preparing for the Future
I co-host a large community on Facebook of people, most aged 50+, who share a common desire to challenge the media narrative around ageing called Advantages of Age.
Amongst the many topics we discuss, ranging from online dating, exercise regimes to whether we prefer to leave our grey hair au natural or dye it, how and where we want to live in the future is a hot topic.
Co-living is a popular option, but as one member acknowledges, “Finding other people with the same attitude, wanting to move to the same place, with the same amount of money, is difficult though!”
Another says, “By the sea and preferably warm. Community living with open-minded people is an attractive option. Near good public transport so not reliant on a car. Able to walk/cycle or wheelchair to shops, activities and entertainment.”
“I love the idea of cohousing where you get your own space as well as communal space. I facilitated a discussion on community living ages ago. I definitely would want to live in one where everyone is welcome, irrespective of gender, disability, etc.”
Many point to one of the few ‘successful’ developments, Older Women’s Co-Housing (OWCH), in Barnet. Maria Brenton, the group’s founder, spent over 13 years in “meetings, discussing, looking for sites, losing sites, wooing housing associations, marketing, lobbying and despairing, before the present site in High Barnet finally materialised through the Hanover housing association in late 2009.”
In an article for the Guardian, Maria says, “the choice of older-age housing appears to rely on the idea that “we can cram their lives into 48 sq m and they don’t need room for hobbies or having a family to stay.” She added: “You don’t entice people out of their three-bedroom family houses by offering them a small box.”
Cohousing and co-living developments are on the rise, especially those targeted at young professionals and students. It’s easy to understand why this type of community-style living would attract digital nomads, for example, who crave a style of living that enables them to access ready-made networks of like-minded people and compact living quarters often in desirable urban locations.