re-opening major decisions (WAS senior vs. multigen)
From: Eris Weaver (
Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2017 07:59:02 -0800 (PST)
Most folks have been commenting on David Mencher's post as though the
question is about benefits/drawbacks of senior v multigenerational
communities, OR about how to make senior communities work. 

As a process consultant, I heard an entirely different question. David

However, despite the original intent to establish an age restricted
(prospective members limited to 55-75 at application to join) community,
some in the community are now pushing to revisit the possibility of
multigenerational v senior only. 

To me, the key issue here is not really about senior v
multigenerational, but about re-opening major decisions. 

Many forming groups find it useful to make an agreement NOT to re-open
previously consensed major decisions. Otherwise there is a tendency to
keep re-hashing things every time new people join the group. This is
exhausting and frustrating and not productive. It is best NOT to re-open
major decisions unless and until there has been a major change in
circumstances OR there is compelling new information. 

In some ways, joining cohousing is a lot like getting married. There are
certain key deal-breakers - issues in which there can be no compromise.
If I want to have children and you don't...if you want a monogamous
relationship and I'm deeply committed to polyamory...then we have no
business getting married, no matter how much we love each other. There's
no way to reconcile those differences. One of us will not get what we
want, and we'll make each other miserable. 

In cohousing, the two major irreconcilable differences are senior v
multigenerational and rural v urban. 

If you enter into a relationship - marriage or cohousing community -
under one set of major agreements (kids/no kids,
monogamous/nonmonogamous, senior/multigenerational, rural/urban), and
the other partner(s) decides they no longer want to live under that
agreement - well then, they may have to leave the relationship! You are
not obligated to accept a major change in the original agreement. You
may deeply consider it, but it would be unreasonable for the other party
to just assume you'll happily switch gears. 

David said his group has twenty households and has been together for
three years. In my opinion, if the group has been operating all that
time under the agreement that they are forming a senior community - if
folks have joined and put in money and time and work based on that
expectation/agreement -  it is NOT FAIR to all those longterm members
for newcomers to push for that agreement to be changed. The group has NO
OBLIGATION to consider re-opening that major decision. 

We communitarians have such a hard time saying no. We want everyone to
have what they want and to be happy. We need a certain number of members
to make the project work, and therefore we don't want to do anything
that might make some people leave. BUT WE CAN'T MAKE EVERYBODY HAPPY OR
MEET EVERY PERSON'S NEEDS. Some issues are non-reconcilable and we have
to make a choice and then live with it. 

I watched a potential community in my town implode over this whole
issue. From the get-go, a sizeable contingent wanted a senior community
and another wanted multigen. They refused to make a clear decision one
way or another. If they had, then they could have split into two groups
and it's likely at least one of them could have made it happen. As it
played out, they had a hard time getting people to commit to joining the
drifted away and the whole group dissolved. 

Again, the issue wasn't really senior v multigen, it was making a clear
decision and sticking to it. 


Eris Weaver, Facilitator & Group Process Consultant 

Founding Member, FrogSong Cohousing (Cotati, CA)

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