Ageing in Community ~ Senior Cohousing in SF Bay Aea

A few of us are interested in creating a senior cohousing community (age 55+) in the Bay Area to enhance our retirement years. We are seeking a site and looking seriously at Pacifica. We arranged an introduction to senior cohousing at the Pacifica Community Center on August 22, 2012, and a second  presentation at the Pacifica Community Center in September 2012.  From these meetings and outreach in our communities we have created a core group of people committed to moving forward on creating Senior Cohousing in Pacifica.

Some background on Cohousing & Senior Cohousing

What makes cohousing unique is that the residents participate in the design of the project and also manage the finished development for themselves.  They learn to work together in the process of developing the community, using a modified consensus decision-making model.

Cohousing was developed in Denmark in the 1960’s and was brought to the U.S. in the 1980’s by architects Katie McCamant and Chuck Durrett.  There are now 130+ cohousing communities in the U.S. and 40+ in California.  These communities are typically small condominium “neighborhoods” (15-30 homes) made up of private homes and a common house to facilitate community among the residents.

While the individual homes all have full kitchens, the common house also includes a commercial-type kitchen and a dining room so that residents can share some meals together (as determined by the particular group).  The common house also includes other shared facilities according to the priorities of the particular residents, such as a laundry room, guest rooms, a lounge, a music room, an art room, a movement room, a workshop with tools, etc.  Community gardens are also included in many cohousing communities.

Senior cohousing communities usually also include a caretaker unit so that residents who need assistance as they get older can share the cost of a caretaker.  Cohousing can thus extend the years of independent living while also reducing costs during retirement.

To quote Wikipedia:

Because each cohousing community is planned in its context, a key feature of this model is its flexibility to the needs and values of its residents and the characteristics of the site.  Cohousing can be urban, suburban, or rural.  The physical form is typically compact but varies from low-rise apartments to townhouses to clustered detached houses.  They tend to keep cars to the periphery, which promotes walking through the community and interacting with neighbors….  Shared green space is another characteristic, whether for gardening, play, or places to gather.  When more land is available than is needed for the physical structures, the structures are usually clustered closely together, leaving as much of the land as possible “open” for shared use.  This aspect of cohousing directly addresses the growing problem of suburban sprawl.

As to a senior cohousing project in Pacifica:

Cohousing develops from the people who come forward and commit to making it happen.    When we have a large enough group with initial interest, our plan is to participate in a 5-session facilitated study group to explore aging-related issues and people’s desires for their retirement years, as well as options for addressing these issues and desires, and specifically, how senior cohousing might meet our needs.

Initially we assumed that we would find a site and build a community for 15 to 20 families from the ground up.  We are also open to finding and retroritting existing buildings, including existing housing that would be suitable for a smaller community. However the group chooses to go forward, we will create around the central principles of cohousing for seniors.

Ageing in Community ~ Senior Cohousing in the Bay Area

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