The Senior Cohousing Handbook by Charles Durrett

The Senior Cohousing Handbook: A Community Approach to Independent Living

By Charles Durrett

Personal Notes:

More than five years ago I clipped an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, written by Erin E. Arvedlund, Inquirer Columnist, entitled: “Investing in You: New options for aging at home,” which basically translates to senior cohousing. In the article she writes about how this can also be described as home sharing or a collaborative living arrangement. The concept was started in Denmark and brought to America more than 25 years ago by husband and wife team: Katherine McCamant (Katie) and author Charles Durrett following extensive research and time in Denmark.

Not so coincidentally, since I don’t believe in coincidences, I contacted New Society Publishers after reading and reviewing another book by this publisher: How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change. When I received a list of possible books to review, The Senior Cohousing Handbook was my first choice, and the author was Charles Durrett, the architect mentioned in the Philadelphia Inquirer article above. Bing

The Senior Cohousing Handbook: A Community Approach to Independent Living

By Charles Durrett

 

Personal Notes:

More than five years ago I clipped an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, written by Erin E. Arvedlund, Inquirer Columnist, entitled: “Investing in You: New options for aging at home,” which basically translates to senior cohousing. In the article she writes about this topic that can also be described as home sharing, or a collaborative living arrangement. The concept was started in Denmark and Katherine McCamant (Katie) and Charles Durrett (husband and wife) brought the concept to America more than 25 years ago after extensive research.

Not so coincidentally, since I don’t believe in coincidences, I contacted New Society Publishers after reading and reviewing another book by this publisher: How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change. When I received a list of possible books to review, The Senior Cohousing Handbook was my first choice, and the author was Charles Durrett, the architect mentioned in the Philadelphia Inquirer article above. Bingo!

Review:

This handbook is actually more like a “blueprint” for cohousing, a term that Charles Durrell (author) and wife Katie McCamat coined. Additionally, the couple lives in a cohousing community in California and continues to give talks about cohousing options. His writing reflects not only the nuts and bolts of cohousing, but also his passion for helping others create their own cohousing living spaces.

While I read the book from front to back, you can use different parts of the book to read, depending on your interest. For example, Appendix A: “Why Aging in Community?” is an excellent article by Anne P. Glass, Ph.D. that gives the reader an overview of the concept of aging in place in a community like the four examples described by the author. Also, the quote at the end of the article is a good one that can set the tone for anyone making an inquiry about cohousing. It is from Elderspirit Community in Abingdon, VA. and part of Chapter 10 called First Wave.

We don’t feel our age. We don’t sit around and talk about our operations. That’s a big difference. We’ve got too much living to do. We can live and be aging.

Actually, Chapter 10 at the end of the book is a good one to read next, because it gives four examples of cohousing in the United States:

  1. Glacier Circle in Davis, California, the first Senior Cohousing in America;
  2. ElderSpirit in Abingdon, VA mentioned above, the second senior cohousing in America;
  3. Silver Sage in Boulder, CO, the third senior cohousing in the USA,
  4. Wolf Creek Lodge in Grass Valley, CA.

Each example is described in detail: its own distinct version of cohousing, depending on the wants and needs of the group in conjunction with the architect, the developer, and the members’ desires of the community. The communities have much in common as well as a great deal of diversity depending on the group’s well-thought out plans as they build their own “villages.”

If any of these examples lights a fire under you, then I would suggest you start  back at the beginning of the book and read about the history of cohousing that started in Denmark, which the author discovered there in 1980. Thus, Part One is described as: Introducing Senior Cohousing as a “living arrangement in which multiple, individually owned housing units (usually 20-30) …(is a) place where community is a way of life……an old-fashioned neighborhood that supports friendly cooperation, socialization, and mutual support…..” The author describes such an old-fashioned  neighborhood in great detail, covering all aspects as described in the quote above and providing the reader with a good taste of what cohousing entails.

In Part Two, we learn about cohousing in Denmark, an important chapter because it is the role model used for cohousing here in America. Part Three is a crucial part of the book if you are serious about considering cohousing for yourself and/or your partner.

Because building a community is a group process, there are several steps to help prospective seniors understand the planning and work involved in creating their own “village.” The steps  that the author describes is based on the 1995 model by Henry Nielson, employed by Quality of Living in Focus, a non-profit group that uses his five-phase model of how to create a successful senior cohousing community. This is done through several study groups that aim at aging in place in community, rather than alone or in what some of the members interviewed called “warehousing” of seniors in institutional settings, where members have little or no say in the basic plans and activities. The study groups, I believe, is at the core of creating a successful cohousing community.

The book is so comprehensive that I would need five or six pages to provide all that I gleaned from this excellent guide for cohousing. For example, I learned that the seniors in cohousing are very environmentally conscious and part of their plan is to walk softly on the planet with their buildings, surroundings, and lifestyle. Very encouraging! Also, the Appendix of Frequently Asked Questions is very helpful.

Therefore, if you have even the slightest interest in exploring this phenomenon and want to think outside the box, I highly recommend The Senior Cohousing Handbook. I found it inspiring, practical, well-written and filled with many colorful photos of cohousing communities, as well as actual information boxes on the philosophy behind the cohousing examples in this nearly 300-page soft-cover handbook that costs $39.95 (used copies available for much less), a small investment if you are really interested in this topic. (I’m already hooked!)

This excellent handbook by architect Charles Durrett on what the back cover calls “eldership” is published by New Society Publishers (www.newsociety.com), who produced this book on Environ 100, recycled paper with 100% post-consumer waste, processed chlorine free, and old growth free. Their book titles reflect their concerns for topics such as: Sustainable Living, Green Building, Environment & Economy, and other stimulating concepts for living well, yet sustainably, with the environment in mind.

 

Up Close and Personal: A Rhyme for My Anniversary

NOTE: I belong to a creative writing group from our local senior center and every week we have a prompt that we use to express ourselves on paper. We each read our essay, story, or poem aloud and get feedback. The bonus of this read-aloud is that we have come to know one another on a very personal level as well as hear some enjoyable readings.

I am sharing this rhyme I wrote for class and for our 17th anniversary yesterday, because many older people feel that LOVE is only for the young, and what I have learned is that there is no “expiration date” on falling in love. (I met Alan when I was 65 and he was 69.)

P.S. I have been taking photos of trees just on the tip of turning and  posting them here. Remember September Song? “The autumn leaves drift by my window…..the autumn leaves of red & gold….. and this is my favorite season!

 

A Touch of Gold!

“I’ll Never Say Never Again”*

After 30 years of marriage and a very difficult divorce,
I thought I’d never remarry: “singledom” my only recourse.

My theme song had been: “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” by Bacharach.
Sung by Dionne Warwick, would I ever get my happy heart back?

The first few years I was both angry and very sad
Followed by financial & emotional struggles, oh! so bad.

After six years alone, no more crying a bucket of tears
And began to take stock of the rest of my years.

Reinventing myself I went back to Empire State College
For a 2nd degree in Nutrition Education, expanding my knowledge.

I also began to edit, helping Penn Staters with their degrees,
And at the same time, expanding my editing business fees.

 

Gold Turning to Brown

I learned there were worse things than not being a wife;
Acknowledging the fact that I still had a good life.

Then, after 13 years on my own, I made one last pitch for a mate.
Put my name in The Jewish Exponent; was I just courting fate?

When I made this decision to reach out one more time,
I did not know this would generate more rhymes

Of how I met Alan and let my heart melt,
By his way of showing me just how he felt.

They say “Love’s More Comfortable the Second Time Around,”
And that’s exactly what I have learned and found.

I still struggle with issues that I have not resolved,
But most of the pain has slowly melted or dissolved.

Now I live with a new take on “A Thing Called Love,”
Learning that only late, when push came to shove.

So I’ll “Never Say Never Again,” you see,
Because letting in Love is Life 101: “Let it Be.”

*Words in quotation are the titles of songs I remember from when I was younger, except for A Thing Called Love.

Half ‘n Half