Co-housing to combat the loneliness of growing old

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

Canadians are getting older. The 2016 census showed that there are more people aged 65 and older than there are under the age of 15. That marks the first time this has happened in over 100 years. In an article in the Globe and Mail, “Census 2016: Canada’s Seniors Outnumber its Children for First Time in Survey History,” Laurent Martel of Statscan’s demography division, was quoted as saying: “We are at a historic moment – it’s a generational shift. This is it – basically the population aging has just accelerated, and the pace of aging will continue to be quite rapid in the coming years because these very large cohorts of boomers will continue to hit age 65 up until 2031.”

In addition to all the implications for healthcare, employment, and social costs, there’s another result: there will be more lonely people in this country. As we age, the truth is we become more lonely.  It might be due to the death of a spouse, retirement, children growing up and moving away, friends passing away or just becoming less social – there are lots of reasons.

And loneliness isn’t just unpleasant. It can cause depression and make other health problems worse. And – what if you fall and there’s no one around to help you?

Is there a solution?

Well, you might consider co-housing.

A cross between living alone and living in an institution (i.e. a retirement or nursing home), co-housing offers socializing and support that might be missing if you live by yourself. Some co-housing settings are created by developers, who sell shares, while others are created by groups of people who want to live in a co-housing setting.  Harbourside Housing in Sooke, B.C., is one of the best-known (and nicest!) examples of people coming together to set up a co-housing relationship. The founders bought a waterfront resort in 2011, and created a beautiful community with 31 units.

Solterra is a company that builds and manages co-housing houses across Ontario. Buyers purchase a room in a home, and share common areas. Wine on the Porch was a housing collective that came to a sad end … after trying to get a co-housing project started in Toronto, the group admitted defeat. Among the reasons cited for the failure – people with money didn’t want to share amenities, and people without money were the ones who wanted in, but couldn’t afford it.  

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