We evolved to thrive as social-able creatures, back when tribal cultures thrived or failed based on collective action. The experience of loneliness is plaguing greater populations than ever today, from millennials out on their own for the first time to high-rise big-city dwellers to empty-nesters and those aging alone or isolated. "Cohousing really builds into our daily lives more of the connections that have withered away," a recent TIME magazine piece and related video says.
The six degrees of separation theory was first proposed in 1929 by the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy in a short story called "Chains." Six degrees of separation is the idea that all living things and everything else in the world are six or fewer steps away from each other so that a chain of "a friend of a friend" statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.
The U.S. Cohousing Association is a national organization but strives to acknowledge relevant happenings in the wider world related to cohousing. Last week, Elephant Journal, a grassroots news organization with a focus on mindful living, interviewed Steven Ablondi and Bryan Bowen about their work with Memel.Global based in South Africa. Of course, cohousing principles radiated throughout the conversation.
A recent article on aging investigates cohousing's potential to address the loneliness dilemma many older adults encounter when faced with the prospect of aging in place, isolated. "What if your housing choices in later life could mitigate that isolation? What if loneliness were to be replaced with meaningful connections?" the piece asks.
The Cutting Edge Resiliency session I co-led with Bryan of Caddis bloomed into a thriving discussion about what strides we all realistically need to take to seriously combat climate change. We agreed that yes, individual numbers are important, but the power of the collective in community living is where cohousing offers the biggest opportunities.
Dominic Castro-Wehr of Nevada City Cohousing and McCamant & Durrett Architects
On the bright side, the concept of Cohousing is becoming increasingly entrenched in the American imagination— with every new project, what was once a culturally radical and shot in the dark neighborhood experiment is now an empirically supported investment into well-being and sustainability.
Cohousing can be a lab for trying out the latest innovations to help us live lighter on the planet.
The goal of this year’s National Cohousing Conference was ambitious – building resilient, sustainable communities – yet I felt a universal reaching; so many of us wanting desperately to learn how to be even more climate conscious than we already are. Let’s not forget, living in community has inherent savings that decrease our carbon footprints. Owning just one lawnmower, sharing meals together in the common house (studies have shown a 25% or more reduction in whole-community energy use during common meals – the one big room being lit for the occasion), and not shuttling our kids way across town for playdates.
While tackling the long and sometimes daunting list of tasks required to start a cohousing group, I draw daily upon every prayer, affirmation and inner trick I know to keep the faith and grow the vision. As our core group grows closer, steadily inching toward this goal, we fine-tune ways to share the vision with new people. We rarely encounter negative souls out there…usually quite the opposite!