AARP mag (circulation 36 million) story on cohousing is out!
From: Raines Cohen (
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 2006 14:24:51 -0800 (PST)
I'm delighted to report that the March/April issue of the magazine of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) features cohousing in a major (8-page) story highlighted on the cover.

Cohousing Association (Coho/US) boardmember Neshama Abraham (of Abraham/Paiss & Associates) and others including National Tour coordinator and former boardmember Joani Blank helped the author of this piece connect to communities and get informed; Chuck Durrett of Coho/US Professional Partner The Cohousing Co. of Nevada City, CA is quoted in the piece, and both his Senior Cohousing book and his collaboration with Kathryn McCamant, the original cohousing book, are cited.

Much as we sigh about articles talking about "communes" and cohousing in the same breath, and portraying the movement in different ways than we might (the piece omits any mention of or photos of urban communities, or private units, or common houses, and doesn't appear to show any fresh construction or talk about working with professional developers and process consultants), the reality is that getting the AARP Magazine readership exposed to the concept will do much to mainstream it and increase the market (especially for elder cohousing/senior cohousing, and seniors living in cohousing). Read the last sentence and tell me that there aren't plenty of 50+ readers out there who will be excited by this challenge:

> [ Retired realtor Patricia DeWitt]: "I have a pilot's license. I've climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. I've parachuted. Living here has been the hardest thing to do--to learn to get along with people--and the most rewarding. If I was told I had to give up all but one of those experiences, I'd choose to keep Milagro [cohousing]."

I encourage all Coho-L readers to pick up an issue (ask any friend over 50, or find it at a bookstore or library -- the circulation is 36 million, the most for any magazine in the world, so it shouldn't be too hard), take a read, and reply here with your comments: how does the piece reflect or not your view of/experience with living in cohousing? What should we be doing to tap the interest it generates?

Cohousing magazine advertisers with units for sale and developing communities: you might want to take advantage of this for outreach in your area to folks who are reading this: announce your next meeting/ orientation/open house to local publications/groups/facilities that serve older people [and don't forget to tell us, too, so we can list it on our calendar!]. Add "as seen in AARP magazine" to your website/ brochure. Make sure that you incorporate thinking about aging in community in your community's plan/marketing/operations. Since the FIC

Coho/US is preparing a long-awaited website relaunch and taking other steps to handle the expected attention and traffic and make sure that it flows to regional groups and communities that are eager for it. We just had a board gathering at Pleasant Hill [CA] cohousing last week, and have already been planning and strategizing around this and related issues, helping build the movement while keeping it community- oriented, helping communities get built and recruit members, getting professionals engaged without their taking over, facilitating research and helping people connect.

Raines Cohen
Boardmember, Cohousing Association of the United States (Coho/US) and Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) Member, Berkeley (CA) Cohousing and Swan's Market [Oakland, CA] Cohousing [studio loft for sale!] Facilitator, East Bay Cohousing (Oakland/Berkeley, CA) - an umbrella group
I have the issue in my hands, thanks to Mid-Atlantic Cohousing [regional network, a chapter of Coho/US, ] leader Ann Zabaldo's Takoma Village neighbor who got it Wed. and brought it to the Coho/US Project Management workshop this past weekend. The theory is that they mail early to DC for political reasons, but Coho/US has started to receive queries from elsewhere.

Results so far: website traffic up slightly Friday and a new high (500 visitors/day) Sunday, without definitive source [i.e. no specific web link sending us traffic, mostly search engines, making it look like the magazine is behind it]. A FEW phone calls/ messages. A couple of info requests on our website.

Table of contents: March & April 2006 [actual article is NOT online yet, and may not be]

Cover headline: "Return of the Commune" (cover photo is Goldie Hawn, looking great at 60. Quite a remake since "Modern Maturity"!)

Inside headline: "Rethinking the Commune" (p. 88)
Sub-headline: Across America bold pioneers are building a new kind of housing for the 21st century

Opening paragraph: By the time he was in his mid-40s, Bob Gilby figured that he had everything pretty much worked out. An engineer with a copper-mining company, he had purchased land situated at the edge of a lush green ridge that sloped sharply from the desert toward Arizona's Santa Catalina Mountains. He and his third wife, Donna, had met with an architect to design their dream home, where the couple would eventually spend a quiet old age among the tall mesquite. They would watch the sunsets and the distant glow of the lights of Tucson from their canyon perch.

Opening 2-page spread photo: David Bygott, Milagro cohousing co- founder, moving a big rock. [of course, cohousing is all about moving big rocks, right? It tends to be figurative, not literal, though, in my experience! ;-) ]

Photos: 8, all exteriors, no CH or unit interiors. All rural- looking. No mention of urbanity or modernity. Intergenerational. A shrine to a passed-on Milagro member.

Resources section ("If you're interested in learning more about the cohousing movement, here's where to begin your search.") lists our website and phone, FEC, and Global EcoVillage Network (GEN) phones + websites (including direct link to Plus Books: Cohousing Handbook, Creating a Life Together (Diana Leafe Christian, Communities magazine editor, is also quoted in the article), Cohousing, and Senior Cohousing.

Overall focus: intentional communities (one photo is of Cheesecake, an elder shared house in N. CA). Finally, 3 pages into it:

"Another community model is "cohousing," an idea imported from Denmark in the late 1980s. Families in cohousing communities each have their own private home with a full kitchen. But there's a separate common building where neighbors can share evening meals, hold meetings, or just watch movies together if they want. And the residents make all of their decisions, from marketing to landscaping, collectively. Homes in a cohousing community cost about the same as similar homes in the surrounding neighborhood. In addition, each family helps pay for the common house and shared land. The number of communities using the cohousing model is growing, with more than 80 already in existence across the United States and dozens more in the planning stages. It's model that the Gilbys and their friends used when they started planning Milagro.

On the next page, Chuck [Durrett] is cited, along with his [Senior Cohousing] book, on the stat that only a third of the groups that start talking about creating a cohousing community actually get to construction.

Further on decision-making: Architect Todd Lawson, author "The House to Ourselves", quoted: "Can you imagine the complexity of eight or more people coming together to make decisions about design?" Add to this the fact that many communities require unanimous consent on key decisions, which means hashing through issues until everyone feels comfortable--and agrees... Chuck's rebuttal: "If done right, making decisions with your neighbors actually helps to build community," says Durrett. The proof: of the dozens of cohousing communities in the United States and the world that have survived to construction, not a single one has failed.

Closing note in the piece: Milagro's community response to the death of a resident. Retired realtor Patricia DeWitt: "I have a pilot's license. I've climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. I've parachuted. Living here has been the hardest thing to do--to learn to get along with people-- and the most rewarding. If I was told I had to give up all but one of those experiences, I'd choose to keep Milagro."

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