As spring arrives with social events in the community and the call of the gardens at home, I find myself reflecting on the dance of shelter and sociability. Vital relationships in the wide community of life include family, friends and neighbors as well as the pets, squirrels and birds that pass through the gardens, the great blue heron who frequented our local park through the long winter, and the greens poised to reveal themselves as the snow melts.
Welcome spring, hardy friends!
Options for Sociable Shelter
As my home-life priorities change in response to age, finances, and concerns for environmental impacts, I want to enter Gray-Green years by reducing my carbon footprint while sustaining and strengthening my social network: to honor and enjoy Earth’s hospitality while living congenially with other people. Fortunately there is an array of viable housing arrangements to meet the needs of Gray-Greens. Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC’s) with their ample social life and cooperative services are everywhere. Gray Is Green has a tool for computing the carbon footprint of a CCRC though it is a labor intensive process and not yet widely implemented.
Over-55 housing developments as new housing projects are popular with real estate developers; many include the latest green technologies. Aging in Place Villages around the country support individuals and couples who want to stay in their family homes with sociable events, healthcare support and hopefully, opportunities to share best conservation practices at the household level.
The Co-Housing Option is gaining popularity as an attractive possibility for meeting environmental and financial goals: we Boomers might be living in those “communes” we imagined back in the 1960’s! And Co-Housing can offer a good balance of affordability and sociability with an improved ecological footprint. Yet the prospect of entering a shared housing arrangement can be daunting. At last month’s Positive Aging Conference I had the distinct pleasure of meeting leaders in the national Co-Housing movement for older adults. The mid-February snowstorm that delayed flights for 48-hours created the opportunity for me to share housing with and learn from two of these remarkable national leaders.
Annamarie Pluhar, author of the book Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates and of online courses brings a wealth of humor and experience to the subject of understanding if you are a candidate for cooperative housing and if so, with whom! Consult her work if you want to undertake the process of self-discovery and social exploration required to enter the co-housing world with confidence about selecting co-housers with whom to enjoy homelife.
It was the gracious hospitality of Karen Bush in the comfort of her condo’s “pre-renovation stage” that brought Annamarie, Karen and me together for the “stranded travelers” interval. In the flow of juggling meals and laptop spaces with getting-to-know you conversations, I garnered an expert overview of co-housing concepts while witnessing daily practices with these two experts. In My House Our House: Living Far Better for Far Less in a Cooperative Household, Karen Bush and her co-authors offer a frank account of the surprises and victories from their successful nine-year stint as co-housing friends. Meeting head-on the demands of real estate transactions, the nuances of neighborhood relations, approaches to home renovations and the challenges of living with other people: their stories and worksheets create a guide to the process of setting up housekeeping and home-making with your carefully selected co-housing partners.
Karen and Annamarie suggested a third book, The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community by Janelle Orsi and Emily Doskow, in which readers can access a generous array of legal references and sample forms.