“So you want to know about a typical day?” asks Louise Bardswich.
She’s seated in a Toronto hotel room where we caught up with her during her annual sojourn to TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival, but her home is in Port Perry, ON. It’s a somewhat renovated, mostly purpose built home which she co-owns with three other women, a stone’s throw from the town’s historic main street.
The biggest motivation for Louise’s move to cohousing was financial, but not in the way you might think. Bardswich was confident she could afford to live in her own home as long
as possible, but when she investigated the cost of retirement homes — and realized that their fees seemed to increase by 3 per cent a year — she worried about running out of money by the time she needed more extensive care.
“So I went into cohousing having done the math and figured it out intellectually. I knew it was my best option. But at a very visceral level, I went into it right up to the day I moved in with anxiety about whether I could do it. I had the sense that, as an introvert, I would spend a lot of time in my room, alone.”
Her “room,” like all the bedrooms, is a large, bright space that easily accommodates a bedroom suite plus a comfortable sitting area in front of a gas fireplace. The wheelchair-ready bathroom has a roll-in shower. An oversized walk-in closet completes the layout.
“But I remember waking up one morning early in the first week and hearing voices downstairs and thinking: ‘Oh, I wonder what’s going on? That sounds interesting.’ So I went down and joined the conversation and it was just very cool.”
So, a typical day. There’s a rhythm to it, coming together, moving apart, coming together.
“Usually Bev or I are the first up, so we put the coffee on. Martha usually joins us by the time it’s ready and we all sit in the living room with our newspaper and our ipads and we catch up on the news and grouse about Trump or Ford. Sandy usually comes down last but she has her breakfast right away, so she’ll sit at the kitchen counter and join in the conversation from there. And then at various points, anybody who wants breakfast will get up and fix themselves something on their own schedule.
“Sometime during that early morning conversation somebody will ask who’s home for supper that night, which usually means they’re willing to cook. So we’ll figure out who’s going to be home, and what time is good — and then we all go off and do our own things. Everybody leads their own lives.
“Around supper time, people will gather to help with preparation or have a glass of wine. When dinner’s ready, if someone isn’t down yet we’ll text them and we have dinner together. Whoever cooked doesn’t do any cleanup.
“After dinner we may stay and chat a bit, more often we go read our books or watch television on our own, because we all have different tastes.”
And that pattern holds, Bardswich says, probably 3 or 4 days a week. “But other than the morning coffee and supper, we live very independent lives.”
Number three in a series highlighting the leadership and themes to be explored at Is Cohousing Your Next Step, October 20-21, in Toronto. Read the whole series:
- Cohousing: A day in the life