CoLiving Canada aims to provide courses to promote seniors co-housing

Three individuals — Mark Powell, Kristopher Stevens and Duncan Goheen — have banded together as CoLiving Canada to promote co-housing as a response to the needs of an aging population. (They don’t yet have a website so I can’t give you a link, but you can email them at

We (the folks at Wine on the Porch) decided to check out their first Toronto information session, yesterday afternoon. About 40 people turned out  to spend a couple hours discussing their interests in cohousing and aging.

Much of our time was spent in small groups with a series of discussion questions. Here’s what the group I was in had to say.

What are your hopes about aging?

  • to be healthy and mobile
  • to still have fun and laugh
  • to lve near people I care about
  • to be in a healthy environment
  • to be among people wo know me well enough to finish my sentences for me
  • to meet new people, go on cruises.

What are your fears about aging?

  • being alone
  • having increasing difficulty with physical challenges
  • being institutionalized
  • having difficulty finding the right people to share with

Are you having a good time?

  • It gets harder as you get older, there’s more and more disconnection between people
  • this [cohousing] involves a kind of business environment, bringing that kind of energy to it. There’s a question about whether we’re ready for that.
  • yes!
  • it would be great to know there were people you could just have a game of cards or go see a movie with, or be alone if you wanted without it causing comment

What gives meaning to your life?

  • connectedness
  • mindfulness of others’ needs
  • laughter of children
  • creative pursuits, community activities
  • family, grandchildren
  • being there for each other
  • being part of a safe and supportive community

What is your emerging reality?

  • working toward sharing resources, financially, socially, environmentally
  • reducing environmental footprint
  • accommodating to physical limitations, diminished capacity

How do we grow older successfully?

  • by laughing [Editor’s note: The notes may not convey it, but our small group was doing rather a lot of this!]
  • by following the example of those who’ve gone before and shown us how to age successfully
  • by staying engaged
  • [and there was some discussion, not fully resolved, on the role of dancing and karaoke nights. Its possible a Task Force may be needed. ]

How do we set ourselves up for success?

  • open our minds to possibilities and different perspectives
  • make it a priority. Invest in it
  • give up the delusion of independence for the sake of greater interdependence

What does it look like?

  • Like this! [a comment on our rollicking, diverse small group.]
  • Interdependence
  • A lot of movement, with many points of intersection

Who do we do it with?

  • We need to find our group, people that share our values

An extra question, thrown in at the end, was about where our closest friends and family live. For most of us, the answer was “all over the place.” An implication is that, even though our loved ones love us, we can’t expect them to drop everything and take care of us as we age. We need a supportive community where we are.

For the people who make up CoLiving Canada, this free information session was what businesses call “lead generation.” They are in training with Charles Durett and company to become cohousing facilitators. They expect to begin offering paid, 10-week courses during which a group will actively work toward defining their needs for a cohousing community. (As of yesterday, they hadn’t yet set a price; the expectation was about $450.)

Experience tells them they will need about 100 people attending an information session to find 25 who will sign on for the 10-week course. And of those 25, about 14, on average, will proceed to form an actual cohousing community.

For the Wine on the Porch folks, yesterday’s information session represented a fresh opportunity to renew our convictions about why we are on this path, and an encouraging glimpse of how many others are eager to explore it. And for those we spoke with, it was an engaging way of facing some of the questions that we may, sometimes,  try to avoid.

How would you answer that set of questions? Whether cohousing is in your future or not, it’s worth spending some time considering your own response to the decisions you will face as you age.

Gather a few friends, have a glass of wine, talk it over… cheers!


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