Women for Living in Community Featured in New York Times Article

Shared Housing has hit the big time! Yesterday, the work I have been doing for the past six years was featured in an article in The New York Times. Times staff writer Phyllis Korkki described the growing challenges of housing and aging when you don’t have family and friends nearby as you get older.

Phyllis interviewed me for the story and her piece highlighted how the Women for Living in Community Network “encourages the creation of networks that enable older people — mainly women, but also men, as her own example shows — to share housing.”

The article entitled ”Childless and Aging? Time to Designate a Caregiver” goes on to explain how people can have the companionship we need in later years by creating shared housing arrangements. The photo (pictured right)  captured one of our household’s weekly meeting.

Read the entire piece where I am featured in the last four paragraphs of the article.

Tools for Creating Community

As you may know, my mission is to create places for Boomers to grow older in grace and dignity. My big thing is not to wait. If you’re someone who has been talking about these ideas with a friend, don’t wait 10 years. Let’s do it now!

 

In a radio interview I did earlier this year with Cathy Severson, host of the blog radio show “Retirement Life Matters,” I discuss my six-year circuitous and bumpy path that led to the shared Golden Girls-like home I happily now live in in Asheville, N.C. My goal is to help your path be considerably faster and easier. Here are tools to create community in your life now. Click here for a link to the full 30-minute interview and a downloadable transcript.

 

How do you get started?
I see three key components for creating community in your life.
Ask yourself:
1. Who are the people you most want to live with?
2. Where is the place you see yourself living?
3. What are key interpersonal tools you’ll need to get along with your housemates?It is critical to begin with a clear vision for yourself of why you want a community component in your housing. Is it economic? For social connections? For health reasons? Or all three combined?

What tools will help you?
I assist groups and individuals to get started by focusing on what I call “My Why?” Ask yourself: Why do I want to do this? When the process gets difficult, you’ll find it helpful to refer back to why you were inspired to create a community in the first place.

I highly recommend the “The Blue Print of We.” You can view this free document produced by The Center for Collaborative Awareness at this link. This is a document we regularly use in our shared house in Asheville both, as a contract with our landlord, and as a working document between housemates. Each of us fills out our own part and then we combine sections for a comprehensive document we’ve all agreed to.

Making decisions is one of the most difficult things to do with a group of people. It’s not about someone winning. It’s about everyone being heard and people feeling included in the decision. We use a form of decision making called “Dynamic Governance.

We also use Non-Violent Communication, a method developed by Marshall Rosenberg. This communication tool enables you to clearly express your feelings and needs and keeps the phrasing to “I” statements, such as, I feel hurt when you ….”. You can access all these documents in the Resources section of my website under “Tools for Getting Along.”

Please contact me if you’re ready to make community happen in your life and create the kind of living arrangement you want for the next phase of your life.

Transforming Existing Neighborhoods – Part Two

This home was collectively purchased and turned into the Common House for N Street neighborhood in Davis, CA.

In last week’s blog, I wrote about bringing more community to your existing neighborhood. This week, let’s discuss what it will take to make this happen. If this is the path you’re considering, here are several important characteristics you’ll need – starting with patience. To be successful, you’ll be speaking with the households on your block and the surrounding blocks to determine if they wish to participate. Be prepared for this process to take time and lots of it. You’re introducing a new idea and people need time to digest something new and make the time in their already busy lives.

Leadership is another key trait. Transforming a neighborhood needs a champion, someone to keep everyone and everything moving forward. If you’re that leader, consider finding a co-leader as soon as possible. You will need to coordinate ongoing events, including planning and implementing social and educational activities. A political effort may also be needed if a  zoning change is involved or to create an HOA, if one doesn’t already exist.

Vision is a third necessary characteristic to see the blueprint of what’s possible and the importance of increased community on your block. Add to  vision, strong communication skills as you’ll be sharing your idea to a diverse group of people understand your vision, including existing residents, current landlords, city officials, potential future residents and design professionals. Communication tools may include your creating a neighborhood newsletter, a community bulletin board,  email list or distributing a flyer about upcoming events to people’s homes.

Tenacity is the final trait required. Some people will find the idea exciting. Others will be opposed. It will require ongoing effort over time to transform your existing neighborhood into group of households that is aligned with a community version.

“Transforming something that is already there involves overcoming the inertia of what is for the benefits of what could be,” said Zev Paiss, sustainability educator and author of From Here To There: A Positive Story of America’s Future.

Models to reference include “retrofit cohousing” where existing cohousing neighborhoods have been turned into supportive communities. In this model, residents start with a few existing homes on a block and adapt the houses, alleys, backyards and courtyards to make them more pedestrian-friendly and community-oriented.

One example is N Street Cohousing in Davis, California, a 19-household neighborhood that started forming in 1991. This community was created by future residents buying up houses in the neighborhood and then taking down the side and backyard fences between the homes. Another example is Temescal Creek Cohousing in Oakland, California, which took only three months to get started.

Retrofitting an existing neighborhood has the advantage of adapting existing structures and not needing to build new construction. It offers innovative opportunities, such as outreach to your friends and family members when homes in the neighborhood go on the market. Another option if for neighbors to buy a home together and convert it into a shared space for meals, meetings and guest bedrooms for out-of-town guests.

The largest disadvantage of transforming your existing neighborhood is the resistance you may meet from current homeowners on your block. However, it may only take five to six households who get behind your idea to make a difference in the amount of community you and others will enjoy.
If you’re interested in this neighborhood process and other ways of creating community in your housing arrangement, please contact me.

Transforming Existing Neighborhoods – Part One

Neighbors transform their street and enjoy getting to know each other during regular “block parties.”

Finding a place where you can “age in community” is challenging especially if you love where you currently live and don’t want to move. A viable option is to direct your energy into converting your existing neighborhood into more of a community.

Creating more connections with your current neighbors has both advantages and disadvantages. Advantages: you’re staying in your home while you work towards transforming your existing neighborhood. And you’ll have the pleasure – hopefully this will be a positive experience – of getting to know the people on your block and starting to do things together.

Disadvantages: as compared to creating a shared Golden Girls-like home or a cohousing  neighborhood, bringing community to an existing neighborhood is the path that will take the most time. Second, you don’t have control over whom your neighbors will be. Third, this model will require an increased level of leadership not needed in the other two models where leadership is shared.

An excellent resource is the book Superbia! 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Neighborhoods by Dave Wann. This book guides the reader on how to remake suburban and urban neighborhoods to better serve people reduce human impact on the environment.

Dave provides practical suggestions on how to transform typical suburban neighborhoods to better meet people’s needs. Ideas range from the simple, like creating a neighborhood newsletter to foster a sense of neighborhood identity and cooperation, to regular community dinners, discussion groups, and babysitting co-ops, to more complex actions, such as removing backyard fences to create park-like spaces for community play areas and gardens.

In next week’s blog, I’ll share the personal qualities that will help you be successful in creating community in an existing neighborhood. Please contact me for how to get started.

Are you a Good Fit for Cohousing? Part Two

Future cohousing residents in California dine together after one of their monthly business meetings.

In last week’s blog, I discussed the six defining characteristics of cohousing neighborhoods which combine personal privacy with community. But how do you know if you’re a good fit for living in these intentional neighborhoods?  If you want a sneak preview, click here for a one-minute video presentation I gave in Florida about key characteristics for successfully living in cohousing.

You Like Meetings
If you get involved with a forming cohousing group, be prepared for lots of meetings anywhere from monthly to weekly. Meetings are an essential component of cohousing because creating one of these communities is an egalitarian, participatory process where future residents make decisions together as a group. The beauty of this collaborative decision making process is that you have an active say in the development of your neighborhood including both, the physical design of the community, and the social agreements for living together after move-in. Ask yourself if you’ll enjoy and/or are willing to participate in meetings for typically two to three years from conception to move-in and then bi-monthly after you move in.

You’re Willing to Share Leadership
Making decisions as a group requires strong communication and group process skills. Typically, several members of the forming group get trained early on to effectively facilitate and lead meetings. If you’re interested in learning these skills you will be a valuable member of the cohousing group and these skills are applicable in other aspects of your life (e.g. your work or spiritual community). Many cohousing neighborhoods use egalitarian consensus decision-making to ensure that all opinions are heard in a discussion. Rather than having a single dominant leader, cohousing group process is more based on the Quaker belief that ‘”everyone has a piece of the truth.”

You’re Comfortable Expressing Your Feelings
Since so many issues are discussed during the development stage of cohousing and after move-in, residents find that sharing personal feelings leads to self-discovery. A favorite quote sourced to Zev Paiss, founding Executive Director of the Cohousing Association of the U.S. captures this well:

“Cohousing is the longest and most expensive personal growth workshop you will ever take.”

If you enjoy meetings, are willing to share leadership, and express your personal feelings, cohousing offers an innovative and nurturing alternative to living alone or the isolation of standard U.S. neighborhoods. Please contact me for more info about this community-focused option.

Are You a Good Fit for a Cohousing Community?

Cohousing neighborhoods are intentionally designed to make connecting with your neighbors easy.

In my last blog, I wrote about five personal traits that, if you have most or all of them, you’re probably a good fit for a Golden Girls-like home. However, living in a house where you share a kitchen, living room and dining space is for some too close for comfort.

If you’re wanting more community in your living arrangement as you look at the years ahead, but need more personal space than living in a shared house, an intentional neighborhood may be the right choice for you.

In this blog, I’ll discuss cohousing neighborhoods. In Cohousing communities residents own their own home and share common spaces and resources. Interestingly, these intentional communities are created by the future resident group who meet each other and work together to decide about the physical design and social agreements of the neighborhood. In many cases, future residents become friends by the time they move-in into the neighborhood.

These collaborative communities are typically between 25 to 35 households, and are home to more than 6,000 people in North America. They are popular because they provide a healthy balance between privacy and community. I know many people who live in cohousing who come from a range of backgrounds, ages and economic situations. They consistently love the lifestyle which they describe as safe, nurturing and FUN.

Spontaneous social gatherings are frequent in cohousing. Kathryn McCamant, one of the co-founders of the Cohousing movement and co-author of the book Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves, says:
“I know I live in a community, because on Friday afternoons, it sometimes takes me 45 minutes, two drinks, and three conversations to get from the street to my front door.’

According to the Cohousing Association of the U.S., cohousing communities have six defining characteristics:
1. Participatory process;
2. Neighborhood design;
3. Common facilities;
4. Resident management;
5. Shared leadership and decision-making;
6. No shared community economy.

This lifestyle has many benefits for Boomers. Residents enjoy an intellectually stimulating and emotionally supportive environment ideal for aging at home in a non-institutional setting. Cohousing residents have privacy when they’re in their private home, and community when they venture outside to the shared common spaces, including common dinners several times a week in the community’s well-used club house or “Common House.”
One of the newer trends in cohousing are elder/senior cohousing neighborhoods designed with Universal Design features to accommodate residents to age comfortably in their homes.

Please contact me if you want to know more about this multi-generational or senior cohousing trend or cohousing in general. In my next blog, I’ll share the characteristics that are most important for living in these socially and environmentally sustainable neighborhoods.

Are you a Good Fit for a Golden Girls Home? Part 2

The four women and one man who share this Golden Girls-like home enjoy regular meals together.

In last week’s blog post, I wrote about the Golden Girls-like home (named after the TV series) where Boomer Women share a house and live together under the same roof. This house-based intentional community has many benefits, including personal privacy, companionship, and reduced daily expenses. On the financial side, you share the rent or mortgage payment, house maintenance and upkeep of common spaces, such as the kitchen, living and dining areas.

As a Boomer Woman, what personal characteristics do you need to successfully live in a shared home? To give you a quick overview, please see me in this one-minute video.

If you’re considering creating or joining a shared household, here are five personality traits to help you determine if you’re a good fit. These insights come from my personal five-year journey to create the Golden Girls-like home I now live in in Asheville, North Carolina and to help reduce the time it takes you to find an ideal housing arrangement for the next chapter of your life.

You’re Social – Enjoy Connecting with People
To successfully live with housemates, you need to enjoy spending time with others. Sharing a home, especially as an adult, requires lots of interaction – both spontaneous and planned – with your housemates. It’s not that you need to be an extravert but, if you are an introvert, you are comfortable having daily contact with housemates.

You Like Living in Close Proximity with Others
Will you feel comfortable being seen when you come out of the shower wrapped in your towel or robe? Can you tolerate someone saying hello before you’ve had your first cup of coffee? Depending on the design of the home and the location of bedrooms and bathrooms, you may be interacting with your housemates first thing in the morning or throughout the day. Ask yourself, “How much privacy do I need?” Will you feel “surrounded” by housemates or will you enjoy the company of sharing a kitchen and dining area with others? If you like having people around when you cook, then this lifestyle may work for you.

You’re Flexible
When considering sharing a home with other Boomer adults, it’s important to be flexible. People and circumstances change, sometimes with little advance notice. If you’re someone who can flow with the small and large changes in people’s lives – from lost keys to lost jobs – the better your chances of successfully living with others.

You’re Tolerant of Someone Using/Borrowing Your Things
Living in a shared home, almost by definition, requires a higher level of sharing. It’s inevitable that items like kitchen tools, books and other personal items will end up being used (and sometimes broken) by housemates. Your level of comfort around sharing your things will contribute significantly to your success in this housing arrangement. Saying what’s important to you and establishing boundaries can go a long way to making a shared home work after you move in.

You’re a Strong Communicator & Good Listener
Many issues come up when you’re living in a “Golden Girls-like Home.” You’ll be dealing with use of community spaces, finances, guests, activities, pets, standards of cleanliness and more. To successfully navigate through all these conversations and make sound group decisions requires clearly expressing your personal preferences and hearing the needs of your housemates.

A document that our household has found helpful is the Blue Print of We document available on the Resources page of my website.

Finding your ideal housemates and setting clear boundaries about how you want to live together is one of the workshops I offer. Please contact me if you’d like a free 30-minute consultation.

Are You a Good Fit for a “Golden Girls” House?

Are you, like me, one of the millions of Americans who learned about the “Golden Girls” house through the TV show hit and loved the idea? Have you been wondering if you could live in a shared home with close female friends one day?

This blog, part one of a two-part series, will answer what a Golden Girls home offers. I personally know about this subject because I have lived in a Golden Girls-like home in Asheville, North Carolina for two years. However it took me close to six years to create my shared house and I’d like to save you some of the time! [Read more...]

Community . . . what does it mean to you?

COMMUNITY

Such good is gleaned by like minds and interests coming together.
We are at our best when we serve a common cause.
We are inspired and moved by individuals whose interests are similar to ours.
A group manifests a group mind.
Just as “many hands make light work”, many minds make for a more creative vision
Now that we are elders, we relish community more than at any other time of life.
Whatever your interests, services, or spiritual needs, stay connected.
Gather together.

~  From a deck of fabulous and inspirational cards called Crone cards.    

My favorite crone . . . Betty White.

My Journey

“One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night.” Margaret Mead

I come home from a long trip to the West Coast exhausted from the time change and the joys of current air travel. As I turn into my driveway, I see my lights are on in my house and the shades are drawn. What a welcome sight for a woman living alone. I’m expected; someone is welcoming me home.

It is my neighbor, Ginny, who has been taking care of the house and my two cats while I visited distant states in my campaign to tout the glories of living in community. In the last 4 years I have encouraged, cajoled, and nudged my fellow Boomers to investigate new ways of spending our lives as we move forward into its second half. [Read more...]

Women For Living in Community