Why are People Choosing Cohousing?

Why are People Choosing Cohousing?
Interest in cohousing has surged in recent years, a trend driven by baby boomers seeking a downsized, community-oriented and environmentally-friendly lifestyle. Cohousing is also gaining traction among millennials as they search for a better way to raise their children.

As social scientists confirm, we’re happier, healthier, longer living people with daily social interactions and connections. A recent UCLA study suggests that loneliness is a health hazard. “A wonderful aspect of cohousing is that you can enjoy your privacy and individuality, but you can simply walk outside to enjoy the connections all around you” explains Peter Lazar, a member of Shadowlake Village Cohousing in Blacksburg, Virginia. “It’s nice not feeling like another face behind a door backing out of the carport, but a person who’s relied upon, and who can rely upon others nearby when necessary,” shares Carolyn Kroll, a member of Durham Cohousing in North Carolina.

Cohousing allows residents to pool efforts and resources for occasional shared meals and child and elder care. Shared gardens, and environmentally-friendly structures contribute to lower carbon footprints. “The intention is for communities to come together and share resources rather than pulling into your garage and closing the doors and never knowing your neighbors,” says Shawn Mulligan, who lives at Stone Curves in Tucson, a community that recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. Sharon Cluster-Boggess, a member of Jubilee Cohousing shares, "I really do believe the ability to work together in a community is what is going to save the planet."

Life Enhancing
Cohousing offers a feeling of security, both physical and financially. Common values usually encompass living a healthy lifestyle, respect for the environment, lifelong learning, personal growth and positive contributions to society. Steve Chiasson, a member of Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in Maine, said the experience of helping create the community he lives in, the responsibility of shaping it going forward in the company of thoughtful, values-driven neighbors "helps me feel more relevant and engaged," he said. "And we all know that staying active, physically and mentally, keeps us healthier as we age."

Cohousing a Successful Model

Research conducted by Coho/US in 2011 confirms that cohousing is good for children, parents, singles, seniors, the neighborhoods around them, and the environment. Cohousing as a model has been highly success in terms of member happiness and life satisfaction, and reduced energy use and resource conservation. This success has given rise to some interesting spin-offs in affordable and supportive housing projects for veterans, special need groups, and others, that physically look and act like cohousing – evidence that others have learned and benefited from the pioneering work of cohousing.

The loss of neighborliness and social connection over past decades and the resulting negative psychological and physical health impacts have been extensively profiled in recent years. Cohousing communities are an innovative and sustainable response to today’s challenge of social connection.

From David Wann, author of Reinventing Community, and a member of Harmony Village in Golden, Colorado

I believe the mini-movement of cohousing is partly a response to a perceived loss of trust and individual control that’s becoming pervasive in our world. People gravitate toward do-it-ourselves communities because they sense they can be better heard and understood in a place that strives for cooperation and support. They can be neighbors with others who want to help put the pieces back together.....The world is sorely in need of focused, nonpartisan cooperation right now. Why not deliberately create neighborhoods that are safer, friendlier, and healthier? Is there a downside to this?

The reason cohousing fuels my own burning soul is that many of its experiments are extremely valuable to a society so distracted by materialism and so shell-shocked by the frantic American lifestyle. What kind of experiments am I talking about? Consensus decision-making; participatory design; alternative sources of energy; alternative sources of information; shared resources and designs that reduce each person’s ecological footprint; aging gracefully and vigorously; neighborhood activism in surrounding towns and communities; and collaborative management of neighborhood resources, to name just a few. In general, residents of cohousing are living actively rather than passively.

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