‘Cohousing is a form of group living which clusters individual homes around a `common house’ – or shared space and amenities. Cohousing is a way of living both `apart and together’ with a collaborative group of neighbours who know each other and sign up to certain values. They work to develop the social capital that creates and maintains a sense of community.’  This description is from the Joseph Rowntree Trust publication called, Senior Cohousing Communities-an alternate approach for the UK?

I am a retired Health Visitor, I used to visit  people who were housebound , and I saw what their loneliness and isolation had done to their mental wellbeing. Even if they had family in the town where they lived , there was no way that the family could replace all the social contacts you can have if you can get out and about. I was aware that when I had visited people in sheltered housing complexes they never went to the communal hall, and did not know their neighbours in the complex.  Wardens I spoke to talked of activities that they organised in the communal hall and how few residents came to them.

So now recently retired, living alone and wondering what I should do about my older age, I visited new builds of flats because I knew that my income would not cover large utility bills to keep me warm in a cold winter – and I wanted to be warm! I was interested in new builds because they had more insulation than buildings built before 2006. I moved to a new build flat, one of nine in a close; but everyone else is younger in the close, and out working or socialising.

I did not feel that the housing options I heard about left me with control in my life, company when I wanted it, and buildings which would give me low heating bills and adapted to my needs if I had further physical disability.

Well if nothing is available then find a group and do it yourselves!  Cohousing gives the control of the management to the residents, allows you to select the group of people that you live with and with whom you will share an ethos or interest.  You will be involved with working with the group to plan, organise and dream to bring into being what you are working towards. Many cohousing developments want to be sustainable or have high environmental standards. The design can also incorporate space to cope with physical disability for clients using mobility aids.

Cohousing started in Scandinavia in the 1960’s and spread to the USA. It is now available from Sweden to Germany in Europe. There are a few cohousing projects already up and running in the UK, many more in the pipeline.

For more information go to http://www.cohousing.org.uk. 

I am involved with Penington CoHousing, which has been offered a site in Glasgow by Southside Housing Association and we are looking for members, go to http://www.pencohousing.org.uk for more information.

Ann McInnes