Things I liked and thought about when I was a hippie back in the 1960s look better and better now that I am old.
Most of the ways of living peddled to us by the establishment as a way of exploiting us and taking what little we have seem far worse by comparison.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, Oct. 04, 2016
A few years ago, four friends began a conversation: Here we are in our 50s and 60s, still active and (relatively) youthful, but all moving toward the day when we can no longer cling to our cherished independence. Retirement homes seem unappealing, nursing homes a last resort. Why not live together and support each other?
It was casual at first, a bit of a joke. But we kept coming back to it. Finally, a few months ago, we went off for a weekend together to come up with a plan.
We began with our reasons for wanting to consider this seemingly offbeat idea. What attracts us to living together?
First, community. André Picard, among others, has written about the extensive research showing that community is vital to health. Being connected – to family, friends, neighbours, a community group, a running club, a mosque – can add years to your life, studies have found.
Second, a smaller carbon footprint. A smaller home envelope to heat and cool and a shared kitchen with fewer appliances than separate houses mean fewer greenhouse gases.
While affordability is not the key driver of our plan, we do expect living together to be more economical than our current, independent living arrangements.
Gradually, a rough plan came into focus. The house should have a front porch, one of us said (zeroing in on essentials!). It has to be downtown, we all agreed – downtown, walkable and close to transit.
Over the course of our weekend retreat, the conversation took some radical turns. Initially, we had imagined a series of neighbouring condos or other self-contained units, but as we talked further, we found ourselves more drawn to a truly shared space.
We realized, for example, that we want to eat dinner together more often than not. Most of us like to cook, and we all love to eat. So a big common kitchen is essential. We like to discuss stuff – just about any stuff – so we need places for conversation.
We have children and grandchildren, and love to entertain, so a guest suite is an obvious need. A media room. A wine cellar! As the common areas became more central to our discussion, the private areas became smaller. We now imagine each unit (person or couple) having private space of about 600 square feet, designed to suit individual preferences. Naturally, everything will be designed to accommodate “aging in place.”