Connecting with another person is a deeply fulfilling experience. When a group of people purposefully stretch themselves, by connecting to each other beyond the borders of selectivity and commonality, a profoundly hospitable community is created — a community in which belonging, contribution and accomplishment occur regularly and naturally. Now that’s something to look forward to during one’s second journey through life!
~ E Headley
Aging with resilience can be an exciting journey if we broaden our vision to seek innovative ways to foster aging in community. It is time for us to embrace our interdependence – to move past the North American focus on independence. We dream of a good old age of mutual support and connections – creating many options beyond the two modern established paths: aging in place in frailty (often isolated, without support) or moving into an institution. Calls for sustainability and austerity budgets everywhere add to the emerging cry for new alternatives.
The underlying values are very similar to those espoused by baby boomers in the 1960’s: desire to rediscover ourselves and live more authentically, to live simply, to reconnect with nature. Aging with community aims to be inclusive, sustainable, healthy, accessible, interdependent, and engaged.
Senior Cohousing Model
Adapting the European approach to senior cohousing for Canada, these innovative seniors-led housing communities support optimal aging. Senior cohousing combines private home ownership with shared amenities (small private space with large common space), lower energy use, governed by residents, neighbourly cooperation, and an emphasis on flourishing through mutual support. Members volunteer for various roles according to their time and talents. Variations include subsidized units, intergenerational housing, intergenerational outreach. Most cohousing communities are located within a broader neighbourhood with easy access to services and opportunities.
Village to Village Model
The Village Model offers a non-housing approach to creating and sustaining a mutual support network within a specific geographical area. The fast-growing Village to Village Network already supports 200+ Villages across North America. The most frequent services offered by these mostly-volunteer, seniors-led villages are: information and referral, transportation and shopping, household and computer maintenance.
Our local Aging in Community group, initiated in the Fall of 2013, has been growing in experience and membership. A small core group is committed to learning together how to provide mutual support and to create community in our everyday lives. A much larger group, interested in aging in community, receive periodic updates of our activities and relevant resources. We presented a panel for the Gilbrea Centre for the Studies of Aging at McMaster University last June – thereby recruiting potential members and broadening interest among seniors and academics in the concept. This past November, we celebrated our first anniversary with a Naming potluck party – choosing Aging Together. We will present a panel in Westdale on June 4th on Home Sharing Options.
With the help of friends, I have prepared a 9-minute video on Aging in Community. I raise issues about the meaning of a good old age, discussing how my focus has shifted from individual aging to growing old in community. Brief descriptions of mutual support groups and seniors cohousing are included.
For further information, see Resources on Aging in Community: http://writingdownouryears.ca/resources/aging-in-community/
Ellen Ryan is Emeritus Professor, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.