The Canadian Senior Cohousing Society (CSCS) was formed in 2011. The founders were a handful of volunteers committed to the model outlined in Charles Durrett’s Senior Cohousing Handbook. Registered in BC, the society’s scope was national. The aim was to provide mutual support to flourish, living in an optimal range of human functioning for the rest of our lives. Canadian Senior Cohousing combined the well-established international model of senior cohousing with new ideas for active aging here in Canada.
The social innovation that CSCS promoted was radical: to reframe societal expectations that aging means increasing passivity, social isolation, and dependency. Instead, CSCS envisioned an elderhood rich in social connection where Canadians could flourish through mutual support while reducing the burden on health care systems and families. CSCS brought an energy and urgency to this vision similar to the 1960’s reframing of what it meant to be young, no longer going passively from childhood to adulthood but celebrating a new age of adolescence. CSCS sought to transform the norm of going passively from adulthood to old age and celebrate a new age of flourishing as elders.
The society dissolved in 2022 and moved some content from its website to the Canadian Cohousing Network. Details of CSCS’s accomplishments are listed here. The society’s Innovating Seniors Housing guides can be downloaded for free here: https://communitycouncil.ca/innovating-seniors-housing-2016/
Although the society has dissolved, support for aging well in community continues. For information about available workshops, etc., please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What is senior cohousing?
Senior cohousing is a neighbourhood focused on aging well in community. Residents design and manage senior cohousing themselves relying on neighbourly mutual support (co-care) and a resident caregiver they hire as needed. Communities are designed for physical accessibility as well as financial, environmental, and social sustainability. Large, shared common facilities and individually owned small dwellings preserve privacy while valuing community.
What are the benefits of senior cohousing?
In senior cohousing you can flourish through mutual support for the rest of your life if you’re lucky, or at least for about ten years longer than if you stayed in a conventional house. You can live affordably on a fixed income while getting the care you need. You can reduce your environmental footprint while improving your quality of life. You can give and receive mutual support to foster independence as you age. You can benefit from social interaction that keeps your brain lively and your spirit nourished. And you can have a lot of fun along the way.
Where does senior cohousing come from?
Multigenerational cohousing in Denmark inspired senior cohousing. As families aged in cohousing some wanted to adapt the cohousing model so as to thrive as they aged in place. The Danish government supported this “Second Half of Life” housing as an effective strategy for healthy, active aging.
How did North Americans learn about senior cohousing?
Charles Durrett brought senior cohousing to North America in 2009 with the publication of his Senior Cohousing Handbook. Durrett and his partner, Kathryn McCamant, had adapted the European model of multigenerational cohousing and introduced it to American audiences back in the ‘80s through their book Cohousing: a Contemporary approach to housing ourselves (1988).
Where are senior cohousing communities located in the US and Canada?
Senior cohousing communities are becoming popular in the US – visit www.cohousing.org/senior-cohousing. The first senior cohousing in Canada, Wolf Willow Cohousing opened in Saskatoon in 2012. Harbourside Cohousing opened in 2016, followed by West Wind Harbour in 2021. Both are senior focused but not age-restricted, and both are in Sooke, BC. For information about other senior cohousing communities, please refer to our Detailed Community Info page.
How old do you have to be for senior cohousing?
Many communities have no age restrictions, welcoming anyone who supports their vision and process. In some, one household member must be 55+.
What is a study group or course on Active Aging and why would some want to take it?
Even those with no desire to live in senior cohousing may find participation in a course or study group beneficial in planning their own aging strategies. Sure everyone thinks that aging happens to other people but if you are lucky you’ll get old too! It is not so hard to get out of denial about growing old in the company of like-minded people. Harbourside in Sooke, BC, required members to take a short course on aging well in community adapted from Durrett’s Study Group 1. West Wind Harbour and Ravens Crossing required a weekend workshop, “Is Cohousing for You?” Other communities have recommended but not required workshops/study groups.
Can I have a pet in senior cohousing?
Each community creates its own pet policy through consensus-based decision-making. Many communities do allow pets.
How do the features of cohousing benefit seniors?
Opportunities for participation and resident management engage seniors in any cohousing community. Seniors tend to make full use of common facilities. They have time for meaningful contributions, neighbourly connections, and fun!
What is Co-care?
Co-care is the heart of senior cohousing and the secret of its success. In Denmark, co-care in cohousing enables people to live independently for many years longer than if they were aging in place in their former homes. Co-care is a grassroots model of neighbourly mutual support that can help reduce social isolation and promote positive, active aging. It encourages independence through awareness that we are all interdependent. In a cohousing community, giving and receiving co-care is entirely voluntary. We may choose to support each other through such activities as doing errands, driving, cooking, or going for a walk with our neighbour. We believe that being good neighbours helps us age well in community and have fun doing it.
Is senior cohousing affordable and sustainable?
Senior cohousing provides housing that is more financially, socially, and environmentally affordable and sustainable than many other options for seniors