Re: Senior Cohousing versus seniors in Mixed-Age Cohousing
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2008 20:18:27 -0700 (PDT)
I have very mixed feelings about senior cohousing or any housing that separates generations. The only advantage I see is that the needs of older people would then get more attention than the needs of children and their overwhelmed parents. Senior cohousing would serve only the needs of the older people but give them the space to enjoy the privileges of having already raised a family and mastered a career.

Children in our society have overrun all our lives. It comes up again and again on the list as the source of tension and even the reason people have moved out of cohousing.

At Takoma Village, from my view point of a 65 year old who loves kids, raised two, and has had a grandmotherly relationship with several of our babies, our children reached the tipping point two years or so ago. They now dominate the CH during non-school hours with noise and running and ball playing. We have 20 with 2 more on the way. About 15 of those are 5-13. The ones over 13 sort of blend in with adults or are off doing their own thing. Younger than 5, they are still at the cute stage and don't shake the building when they run.

It seems impossible, and unkind really, to insist on adults only activities. And impossible to include children and expect them to be mannerly and observe the expectations of the occasion. Their parents don't expect it, or even desire it of them. Overcoming parental expectations when the parents are in the room is impossible. If the parents expect the children to run and scream and spill their food, they will.

Sometimes I think the urge for senior cohousing is not about children but their parents. Our culture has come to the place where designer children rule the range. And their parents live through them.

Instead of using all that attention to teach them good manners and actually expect them to carry on intelligent conversations, they expect "children to be children."

I know I'll catch hell for this, but where does it say in the definition of "a child" that they _must_ spill their milk, play with their food, run indoors at full speed, talk at the noise level of jet plane, or play basketball in the living room? Or stomp up and down stairs?

I was discussing this last night with the chef of a small DC restaurant, 12 tables, who was appalled at what parents expected their children to be able to do in restaurants -- even encouraged them to do. This is a restaurant with a relaxed southern style with formica tables, etc. Children are welcome but there is no children's menu. A full meal can cost $50. Half the menu is made to order and varies daily. There is normally a line by 6:30. No reservations. No take out.

In this small restaurant, the waiters have to be on the very same wave length to keep from colliding every 2 minutes. Chef has a small window above her stove where patrons stop to say hello, and out of which she can breath reasonably cool air. The kitchen holds only two very intimate people.

Chef has had to put a note on the menu that says that children are expected to stay in their seats.

In this environment, a parent started playing ring around the rosy with her three children in the middle of the aisle under Chef's window. Chef was about apoplectic at the stupidity of this woman who in all likelihood thought this was cute and a precious memory for everyone who witnessed it. I doubt if she had a clue that she was endangering the children, intruding on everyone's privacy and peace of mind, and blocking the meals of people who had stood in line for half an hour to an hour and were paying very well for now cold if not spilled food.

I think cohousing attracts some parents who have this same sensibility. They hear "child friendly" and expect "child centered." Every activity, every room, has to come down to the level of behavior that the parent fantasizes is the nature of the pure child. Sort of Peter Pan meets Kung Fu.

I think this is an issue for cohousing, not because it only occurs in cohousing, but because it seems to be accepted norm that if one objects, one is being anti-child. The response is get thee to senior cohousing.

So communities that were formed so children could live in them, are in danger of becoming communities where only children can live. An exaggeration but it's a serious issue.

Another issue is that when I look around, I see that my community would be in serious trouble if the 50+ people all moved out. They do most of the work.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing,Washington DC

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