Re: Aging in Place
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2015 08:18:42 -0700 (PDT)
I think better than a focus on aging is a focus on what community members need 
_and_ their equal ability to support others. Just because people are aging 
doesn’t mean they have more needs than anyone else. Or that if they have young 
children, they can’t help others.

The issue is rather that as a society we have traditionally focused on the 
needs of children and parents. It is only in recent decades that the idea of 
building public facilities so they can be used by those with different physical 
abilities and providing equal education for all abilities have become even 

That some needs are considered to be those of the aging, is in part, just a 
realization that some people have those needs. Those over 80 may be more likely 
to have some needs just like those under 10 to have others. But none of those 
needs are confined to those age groups. And few are evident in everyone in any 
age group.

A team focused on neighborly support—with a catchier name—would be more 
inclusive, both  in considering needs and in considering who could help with 
those needs. Everyone should have some checkmarks on each side of the ledger.

My favorite examples of this are:

1. When we put in an automatic door opener on the front door, it was thought to 
be for those using wheelchairs. In fact a member who uses a wheel chair donated 
it to the community. But it is valued much more often by all those temporarily 
on crutches, pushing strollers, carrying bags, pushing laundry and shopping 
carts, etc. It is an asset I think we would replace even if we had no residents 
using wheelchairs.

2. I have often taken babies and toddlers because the parents needed to get 
something done around the house, like cleaning. In fact when children are 
around, I find that is the best time to get housecleaning done. But I have much 
more experience with both tasks and am often much more relaxed with babies and 
toddlers than first-time parents. So it works for me when it is driving them 

To welcome diversity is to recognize it everywhere and to expect support from 
everywhere. Even a person with an infant in a baby carrier can take in the 
morning paper to someone with a broken foot or arthritis, or check in to be 
sure they haven’t dropped something they can’t pick up. 

I agree that empty nesters and the retired do most of the work in cohousing but 
I don’t think it should be that way. If we don’t as a culture think about why 
and why not, it will continue and we will have more and more senior 
communities. A major point of cohousing was not to separate out various kinds 
of households. The mainstream housing does that very well. 

Cohousing has done a wonderful job of creating child friendly condos. It’s time 
to begin thinking of how the households with children can integrate themselves 
into support for the rest of the community. And children need to be raised to 
give back too. It shouldn’t be a surprise when a child notices a need and 
offers help.

(And Katy, our residents often do childcare for others. I do it a lot but 
others do as well. For children who arrive home before parents. Are home from 
school because they are “sort of” sick. Be the goto person for an older child 
at home alone. There is always someone available to hold a baby while someone 
has to the store or whatever.)

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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