Elders have the luxury of attending to people now rather than to things.
And out of that attention comes a new sense of being really important to the world.
~ Joan Chittister

Aging in Community News

As Joan Chittister tells us in her book The Gift of Years, we find ourselves in old age more connected to others, not less so.

These days, I spend time imagining endless possibilities for offering our gifts — to this world crying out for wisdom and compassion. What would it mean to join with others to build a community of elders, committed to hospitality and generosity, to help each other as needed and to extend our reach to younger generations?

In November a number of us gathered to hear Norma Gamble of Oakville speak about her shared housing concepts for affordable housing and quality lifestyle for women 55+.  The SuitePEAS model is one that ‘repurposes’ existing larger single family homes, to create micro suites with shared common areas.  Several such homes in a neighbourhood can then share resources such as a vegetable garden and automobiles as well as expertise such as landscaping, menu planning, economical travel.  This network can seek ways to engage students with skills in computers, interior design, and organization, for example,  in cross-generational mentoring. These innovative ideas challenge us to envision our future with less private space and more shared space, less stuff, and more connections.

As we contemplate these issues locally, we have begun by creating multiple conversations so that we can eventually identify joint visions for groups of individuals to pursue.  First, how can we build a mutual support network? Later, are there cohousing, cooperative, or shared housing alternatives that some are willing to develop into reality?

I would love to hear from you about your ideas on this topic of Aging in Community.  I will write a column in this monthly blog to keep the conversation going.

Writing Exercise

Make a list of descriptive phrases about the small beauties in your life – showing your connection to individuals in your life: to people with whom you have enjoyed the beauty of nature; to those whom you have helped, to those who have helped you, and to the broader communities of people with the same aspirations for a good life with feelings of mutual support.

Choose one phrase/image that strikes you and write about it for 10 minutes.

Films on Aging

Currently, the Second Journey e-magazine features a special issue on Films on Aging. A most useful filmography lists  Films for the Second Half of Life, including North American and international films, from older classics such as Wild Strawberries and On Golden Pond to current ones such as Still Mine and A Separation.

Edited by Bolton Anthony, the issue includes the following intriguing articles:

Romance and New Relationships in Later Life by Connie Goldman

Knowing When to Resist, When to Accept by Jim Vanden Bosch

Keeping the Little Things Little… by John Sullivan

Films as Guidance for Positive Aging by Harry R. Moody

How to Watch a Movie by Bolton Anthony

The Gunfighter Grows Old by Steve Taylor

Showtime at Wolf Creek Lodge by Jacque Bromm

Book Review

The Senior Cohousing Handbook:
A Community Approach to Independent Living

Charles Durrett; Gabriola Island, BC, Canada:
New Society Publishers, 2009.

Imagine taking charge of the rest of your life by gathering with like-minded others to plan a collaborative living arrangement to foster relationships, mutual concern and a caring community life. Most housing options for seniors isolate them, limit their input, and discourage a neighbourhood atmosphere. In contrast, cohousing counteracts isolation and leaves the choices in the hands of the residents. Senior Cohousing, like Intergenerational Cohousing, is an option for an increasing number of North Americans.

Cohousing refers to a cluster of independent suites/condos/cottages/houses linked by an intentional community to shared common areas indoors and outdoors. Senior cohousing revolves around the needs and desires of seniors, while intergenerational cohousing (including seniors) revolves around the needs of children.  In senior cohousing, the group plans for intergenerational contact within the broader community.

As William Thomas (esteemed innovator aging care) states in the prologue, we can thank Charles Durrett for translating the European models of senior cohousing into multiple viable alternatives for older adults in the USA and Canada.  He is the social architect of new ways of thinking – the community approach to independent living, re-establishing many of the advantages of traditional villages within a contemporary context.    >>> TO READ MORE: DurrettSeniorsCohousing-RyanReview.

With this reflection photo of the Convent of St Francis [Santiago Spain], I bid you adieu and blessings for the New Year,

Ellen