Cohousing is a concept foreign to Bermuda but one that is worth looking at again. 'Again' suggests Bermudians considered it at all when, in reality, I keenly researched it back in the nineties but appeared to be alone in my interest.
The topic came up recently, when (and this happens when you reach a certain age) friends asked us if, in retirement, we would consider some form of communal living. The discussion centred on private accommodation around a square of some sort where we could keep an eye out for each other but not actually live together. We like these friends but not that much.
After dispensing with the term 'commune', which has unfortunate Koolaid connotations, I realised we were being asked to ponder a form of cohousing.
A familiar form of residential development in Denmark, Sweden and, to a lesser extent, USA and UK, cohousing communities are made up of groups of families or couples living in self-sufficient private residences but who access and use shared facilities as well. The key component of cohousing is a Common House with a kitchen and dining facilities where everyone can share an evening meal, have community meetings and generally socialise. Links between residences are important too, as the notion of watching out for each other is a primary reason for living in a cohousing set up. Other shared facilities can comprise playgrounds, laundry facilities, workshops and guest accommodation.
As described by the UK Cohousing Network, advantages include:
- a sense of community and shared values, a sense of belonging,
- keeping one’s privacy while having an active and locally based social life,
- living more economically and sustainably – sharing skills, tools, heating systems, all sorts,
- neighbours that become friends and the mutual support that comes naturally with that (anything from shared childcare to a shoulder to cry on to a pint of milk to someone noticing if you have not been seen for a day or two),
- support in older age, and,
- feeling useful/making a contribution.
Cohousing is something Bermuda should investigate. It could be an alternative to traditional assisted living situations or as a (new to us) way of building healthy and sustainable communities.