RE: cohousing for older people
From: Forbes Jan (
Date: Thu, 12 Jul 2001 07:23:12 -0600 (MDT)
Thanks Fred.  You've given me a few leads here and some interesting
perspectives on the issue.  

It does seem that a lot of housing for older people is designed by others on
their behalf.   It would be interesting to document this.  It could be
saying something about ageism - an assumption that older people are not
capable of being agents, of not being capable of determining what happens in
their own lives.  The literature certainly provides evidence that some older
people end up in nursing homes, hostels and retirement villages against
their will because their children have pressured them into it.

We have some small retirement villages here in Tasmania that have mostly
been established by children and their peers out of concern for their
parents and members of their parents' generation.  

We had some presentations from some of these 'community housing' groups at a
forum last year, the proceedings of which are to be published in the report
I mentioned in an earlier post.   (Here we define community housing as
non-profit affordable housing subsidised by the government and managed by
community based organisations with volunteer management committees.)

One of the aims of the forum was to let older people know how community
housing was done so that they could decide whether or not they wanted to do
it for themselves, as another option.  Also to give older people the
opportunity to have their say about their housing issues.  The impetus came
from a group of single older women with housing issues who I have been
working with.  Over 170 people came, a good turn up for Hobart.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Fred H Olson [SMTP:fholson [at]]
> Sent: Wednesday, 11 July 2001 23:43
> To:   cohousing-l [at]
> Subject:      Re: [C-L]_cohousing for older people
> Jan Forbes responded Mon, 9 Jul 2001, wrote (tho it was posted by Katrina
> Lewis):
> > Asking why there is no 'elderly
> > cohousing' (my understanding is that people prefer the term older
> because of
> > the ageist connotations of words like elderly or aged) or cohousing for
> > older people in some countries and not others is a big question.  I have
> no
> > idea what the answer is.  It could have a lot to do with the different
> > legislative and policy frameworks, planning regulations, availability of
> > private finance and level and type of government support for social
> housing.
> I would speculate that the idea of cohousing may not have filtered down
> to those that plan housing for older people in the US where the idea has
> been around for 13 vs 30 years in Denmark). And that there is 
> less willingness by those who do such planning to adopt new ideas.
> This is premised on several things which are somewhat speculative also.
> I wonder if housing for older people is less likely to be planned by
> residents (even in Denmark?) and therefore more planned by traditional
> organizations and intstitutions which may take longer to adopt new ideas.
> When I was in Denmark in 1999 I visited one cohousing community for older
> people called Gartnerhaven in Suskobing (sp?) near Maribo (on the Island
> of Lolland (south of Copenhagen down by Germany).  My 78 year old cousin
> knew about this community and took me there when I was visiting him after
> our group tour of cohousing.
> It had 8 units, seemed very 'up scale'.  I remember getting the impression
> that their commonhouse was used little and thy had few (monthly?) common
> meals.  The common house seemed to be used more like a senior citizen
> center. The net impression I had was that it was a less cohesive community
> than others we visited.  I wonder how much input the residents had on the
> development of the place (tho I dont remember anything specific). I also
> saw a report about Senior Cohousing ( ISBN 986536-0-1 Sept 1997) which I
> browsed a little but it was in Danish...  All of my observations are
> suspect - based on a brief visit of just one community, but none the less
> it leads me to wonder what other differences there are in 'Senior
> Cohousing' in general.
> On the other hand I have learned - mostly from visiting Tinggarden
> (see 'the book') that what seems less cohesive compared to other
> communities can still be satisfying for the residents.  Cohousing comes in
> many varieties which makes it hard to judge individual communites.
> Senior only vs mixed ages.
> My impression is that some seniors prefer 'senior only' housing and some
> prefer mixed ages.  Seems like there is room for both and the goal is to
> match facilities to preferences so people dont find themselves in one or
> the other against their preference.  I do wonder if there are more senior
> only (non-cohousing) housing in the US than there are people who prefer
> that.
> One interesting (sort of) senior only cohousing community that I visited
> was in central Stockholm, Sweden called Fardknappen.  It was developed by
> people who wanted it to be for people "in the second half of life" so it
> only allows people over 40 who do not have dependants.  They get
> criticized for this but I think people should be able to do what they
> want.  Besides they have kids - visiting grand children who go home at
> night.
> Fred
> --
> Fred H. Olson  fholson [at]    Minneapolis,MN   55411
> (612)588-9532  Amateur radio: WB0YQM          List manager of:
> Cohousing-L and Nbhd-tc (Twin Cities Neighborhood issues list)
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