Picture from Henry Kroll, from the Silver Sage session on "Aging in Place, how's it working?"
I arrived home at midnight after a long weekend in Boulder, attending the Regional Cohousing Conference. I should have been exhausted, but I was wired after the energizing gathering. A success by any measure, we had close to 90 folks attend, 2/3’s from outside Colorado, including Minnesota, Mississippi, California, Texas, Missouri – even a few folks from Canada, and one from Australia!
We heard loud and clear from participants that the conference was a worthwhile and enjoyable experience. We are already planning for future Regional Cohousing Conferences, stay tuned.
The Boulder Regional Conference program had a spontaneous flavor (Jim Leach described it as “cohousie” in organization), and thus allowed for abundant story sharing and organic issue discussion. Many who attended are part of forming groups, with lots of questions; others had enjoyed many years of cohousing life and were interested in ways to enhance the vibrancy of their community.
There were two sessions that particularly influenced me. “Cohousing-like Communities: Expanding Options,” profiled how cohousing concepts are influencing the fabric of housing options and economic sustainability. Hundredfold Farm near Gettysburg used the cohousing model to convert a Christmas tree farm into a community. Laura Fitch described the positive outcomes of “cohousing-like” housing for homeless veterans and the “Treehouse Community” supporting families who are fostering and adopting children. In Memel, South Africa, Bryan Bowen is interweaving an intentional community into a project relocalizing food production in a permaculture farm – a potential model for small towns in America that are struggling. I came away realizing that although our traditional cohousing world is a slow growth, the concepts are taking hold in myriad communities, and that’s a feel good.
The session on “Kids and Young Families: Growing up in Community” was both enlightening and entertaining. Ben Hartzell, now a young adult, reflected on his early years in cohousing, and how it profoundly affected who he is. In cohousing he explained, “everyone was my friend.” You grow up age blind – some of your best friends can be 85. Cohousing nurtures zero self-consciousness, an open mindedness that allows risk tasking, and to be fully yourself. And apparently, kids are natural at community; adults have to practice to living in community! A teen at Nomad Cohousing talked about being seen and heard as an equal and how validating that was, a gift to be “held in the web.” For adults, there are many benefits for living intergenerationally. One that stuck out for me: young parents getting the benefit of older parents who have been there, and can share core wisdom. We also discussed challenges, like getting teens to work, or disciplining children who are not your own. One come-away: we need more resources for parenting in community (so please share learnings with us for posting on cohousing.org).
I can’t begin to encapsulate the conference experience. Beyond the enlightening sessions, I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations and sharings I had with cohousers, and the beneficial networking.
The regional conference model offers a lower cost and for many a more accessible format. While the program is limited – with several participants wanting more “coho 101” – the spontaneous and organic flow proves a winner.
We are grateful for our sponsors: Silver Sage, Nomad and Nyland Cohousing Communities, and the many folks who contribute to organize and present.
Next on the agenda is the National Cohousing Conference in May 2015, providing expansive program offerings, and deep networking opportunities. Visit http://www.cohousing.org/2015conference
In addition to basic cohousing 101 sessions, our “Next Generation,” theme will explore the impact of cohousing on young adults, the new wave of urban and rural models, the growing popularity of senior cohousing which didn’t exist 20 years ago. We’ll also look at alternative models that incorporate cohousing concepts in creative ways, and profile communities that are celebrating 20+ years. Save the date, May 29-31, 2015 in Durham, NC.