Cohousing concept introduced to Alaska

Nationally acclaimed architect and author Charles Durrett introduced “cohousing” to the Senior Citizens of Kodiak, AK, group in October at their fourth annual Aging Connection Conference, a Senior Housing Community Forum, where many of Kodiak’s caregivers, state housing representatives and nationally recognized innovators are searching for ways to help baby boomers as the nation’s largest generational population begins to cope with what is often called the “golden years.”

Kodiak is a mixed-income town, with not a lot of separation between the wealthy and not-so-wealthy. A good portion of the older community members live in leaky, energy-inefficient cabins until they can no longer carry in the firewood or perform other daily chores, at which point they end up prematurely in inappropriate institutional homes.

As one attendee stated, “As we grow older and gradually a little less mobile, less vigorous, less able to cope with the physical responsibilities of maintaining the home and grounds, we have been toying with the idea of buying or moving into a retirement home. I found that two groups of people – the very well-to-do and those whose financial resources are exhausted – have facilities available to them should they become age-disabled. Those in the middle class were sort of up against it. I thought back to my mother, who insisted on staying in her own home where she could afford home care, but where she, a formerly very sociable lady, was isolated and lonely. Had there been a decent facility in Kodiak, her last 10 years could have been much more pleasant. I’m sure there must be others in Kodiak who, like us, anticipate some real limitations in their older years, and would like to live where they can enjoy life without too many responsibilities and where they can socialize easily when they want to.”

“Quality of life is based upon the relationships one has with other people, sensing someone gives a damn in their neighborhood, and better yet, lots of people give a damn.” Durrett told the group. “In America, people try to stay in their single-family homes, to die there. But people can now have a choice, realizing they are on a journey together.”

The Kodiak project could be the first cohousing community in North America that is half nonprofit rental/half privately owned. For more information, see our website or cathy [dot] chmel [at] cohousingco [dot] com (email) Cathy Chmel.

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