Sociedad · 14 February 2018

Cohousing senior: A real and viable alternative?

Por cenie
Cohousing senior ¿Una alternativa real y factible? - Sociedad, Investigación

Denmark was the pioneer of the cohousing senior movement with almost 8% of its population living in a cohousing or collaborative housing of some kind. However, as the movement gained strength it was driven by its potential to meet a significant and growing need for housing for the elderly. As baby boomers reach retirement age and look with determination at their alternatives, more and more communities of this type are designed and created.

What exactly is cohousing or cohousing community?

It`s important to point out that most cohousing communities have private and individual homes built around an area or common areas that encourage interaction.

These "neighborhoods" invite residents to be "neighbors" and stay socially active. Residents regularly organize, in collaboration, community activities, meals and shared spaces. Some have a kitchen and a meeting space in common, while others have a garden, a pool or a hot tub. What is obvious is that when residents know each other well, this offers a useful solution for anyone who, on their own, occasionally needs help. And while it is not a solution for serious medical conditions, it can be a good response in case of an emergency.

All this makes it easier for a person to live in their home at an advanced age with the support of a system based on exchange and cooperation and through creating close links with their community.

For older people who wish to grow old in a supportive community environment, collaborative housing is an emotionally positive alternative to traditional options, such as nursing homes and assisted living centers. In cohousing spaces for older adults, instead of relying on administrators, people trust each other to help each other when necessary, which provides a very intense and active social commitment.

How do the coviviendas work?

The cohousing spaces aim to combine private and shared living spaces in a way that satisfies the need for privacy and a sense of community and support. The Baugruppen model, in Germany, is an international leading example.

Despite the great diversity in the size, density and design of a cohousing, there are some common characteristics. First, future residents often participate in the design process to ensure that the final construction meets their needs, works with an option to buy or rent the home, which must always be more economical, more ecological and more social than a "normal" housing. Second, residents generally participate actively in the administration of the property.

Most valued features of senior cohousing

Cohousing provides a sense of belonging, of identity, which is so necessary for most of us, and for the elderly in particular, taking into account that our culture tends, in many cases, to marginalize older adults. In addition, it provides purpose and meaning to the collaborative management of a community.

Another attractive aspect of this model is that it can provide economic advantages over other alternatives, also being one of its hallmarks. Smaller homes, more efficient from the energy point of view and better designed, result in a lower cost of living. And the same thing happens with sharing resources. A strong social environment can help improve health and reduce medical costs. Something similar happens with the hiring of external caregiver cooperatives that can be much more profitable.

Cohousing allow older adults to help create their own community to meet their own needs, live with people who understand their circumstances, with whom they share a common bond of age and experience, making them feel comfortable and happy.

In a report published by the Democratic Union of Pensioners and Retirees of Spain (UPD) in 2015, "Cohousing and the elderly", states that 2 out of 3 people over 65 know this model of housing and that 40% would consider going to live in one of these places, which leads us to ask ourselves: Are collaborative houses the best option for the elderly?

Under the framework of: Programa Operativo Cooperación Transfronteriza España-Portugal
Sponsors: Fundación General de la Universidad de Salamanca Fundación del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas Direção Geral da Saúde - Portugal Universidad del Algarve - Portugal