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‘Co-Housing’ movement offers lifestyle options for senior living

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A "co-housing" community in the United Kingdom gets an artist's touch. The developments are becoming popular in the U.S., having become popular in Europe.

A “co-housing” community in the United Kingdom gets an artist’s touch. The developments are becoming popular in the U.S., having become popular in Europe.

“Senior Co-housing” is beginning to emerge in the United States as a housing option for older adults. This new approach allows residents to design and run their own community, primarily by consensus.

“Their focus is on creating small, close-knit villages where residents build bonds and know everyone’s name,” says Jeff Barber, a housing and urban design specialist with University of Missouri Extension.”The concept began in Denmark in the 1960’s as multi-generational cohousing. It is now gaining popularity in Europe and the U.S.”

The pattern builds on independent living, creates a fuller lifestyle, fosters interdependence of neighbors and can extend life expectancy.

“The result is a cross between condominium and traditional neighborhood, where residents join in a partnership to help each other, while living in their own home,” said Barber.

These walkable, mini-villages are suited to both rural and urban settings where residents own their own homes, Barber explains. However, this new concept creates areas where residents can gather in common areas to socialize, share meals, garden or participate in other activities.

“This approach allows a living arrangement that can be more dignified than assisted living or a nursing home,” said Barber. “Elders in our society are often very active, representing an incredible source of volunteerism and wisdom. Through the co-housing model, these older adults can develop relationships suited to caring for one another in a tightly knit community.”

Residents in cohousing situations often improve their physical and mental health because of the increased opportunities to meet and socialize with others. Additionally, when they look out for each other, they take satisfaction in their ability to contribute to others.

“Research indicates these feelings can be crucial in confronting loneliness, confusion and isolation that can lead to depression and even early dementia,” said Barber.

More information about this option can be found online at and Or, you can contact Jeff Barber, a housing and environmental design specialist and LEED architect with MU Extension, by e-mail at (417) 881-8909.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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