Senior cohousing
From: Laura Fitch (
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2010 11:25:25 -0800 (PST)
I disagree with the notion that the senior cohousing movement detracts from
multi-generational cohousing.

I actually am very excited about senior cohousing, and determined to help
make it happen.  I look at the baby boomer tsunami that is about to hit
retirement age - and I conclude that my generation is in BIG trouble if we
do not figure out how to better house ourselves in our later years.  There
will not be enough multi-generational cohousing to do it.  Social Security
may be broke.  I sincerely believe we will need to explore MANY solutions
and this is one solution that should be available for whoever wants it. 

I am especially excited about the two types going in side by side as in the
case of Silver Sage and Wild Sage communities in Boulder!

Laura Fitch, AIA, LEED AP
Kraus-Fitch Architects, Inc.
110 Pulpit Hill Rd.
Amherst, MA  01002

lfitch [at]

-----Original Message-----
From: Sharon Villines [mailto:sharon [at]] 
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2010 8:41 AM
To: Cohousing-L
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Any family-based 55+ cohousing in existence?

On 12 Dec 2010, at 11:56 PM, balaji [at] wrote:

> movement.  Why?  Because it takes seniors out of the loop, and constrains
> the development of true (i.e., multigenerational) communities.

Well, just the opening I needed to engage this subject. I also believe this
is not a good trend for cohousing because it is the seniors who do a vital
if not largest share of work in the community. Our community would collapse
without them.

Our most dependable people are over 60. They have more flexible time and
have a greater understanding of "larger than my household" responsibilities.
They are less overwhelmed by their own lives and have out-grown the
expectation that someone else will do it. Many young people are parented to
believe that others (parents, teachers, counselors, etc.) are out there and
will take care of things. 

Of our residents who are over 60 there is not one who is a slacker. Not all
are hale and hearty but they are all dependable to the best of their
ability. None use their infirmities as an excuse for not stepping in when
something needs to be done, and those under 50 do when they have a cold.
Most don't need to be asked to pitch in. Even those who are 85+ have ongoing
leadership and task responsibilities. If it is within their physical
ability, they are responsible. This far from true of the under 50 crowd.

If people under 50 don't want to stop the drift to senior cohousing, they
need to look at the reasons older people want their own spaces. I haven't
made a study of this but on my list and on the lists of those I've talked
with are:

1. An expectation of adult behavior in some areas of the commonhouse _and_
the grounds all the time and at some time in most areas of the CH. This
requires a concept of the CH has something other than a rumpus room for
children or an unsupervised student dining hall.

2. Some meals where children are not present so adults can speak not just to
be heard but to have uninterrupted conversations and make jokes that someone
else may not want their children to hear. And continue them past school day

3. An understanding that on a regular basis there will be events for which
parents have to make their own arrangements for their own children. The
people over 50 have either raised their children or chosen not to raise them
and most probably did not join the community for the sole purpose of
assuming responsibility for more. Emergency back up and support for
childcare at meetings and workdays is the expected limit on childcare. Some
will do much more but should not be expected to nor repeatedly asked.

4. Understand the difference between child-friendly and child-centered.
Child-centered is not multigenerational.

5. Parents must remind themselves that their children are not holy causes.
No crusades.

Cohousing is wonderful but multi-generational takes focus on the needs of
all the generations, not just the children and their parents. 

It would be interesting to have some discussions of how this mult-focus
could be assured. How would you structure the budget and the prioritization
of activities to ensure that it was being done?

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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