Living Cooperative

Submitted by admin on Sun, 08/21/2016 - 23:01

When we are older – where and how will we live ?

As we get older, we face dilemmas – do we stay or do we move ? How can we combine an independent life with a social life, especially if we become less able to go out ?

There is considerable research evidence that old people are much happier and healthier when they lead purposeful connected lives, socialising and engaging in activities that interest them. If we have people around us all the time, we will inevitably socialise and exercise more, leading to health benefits. To a great extent, this depends on the pattern our lives - if we are close to the location of many interesting activities, then we are more likely to take part, and thus more likely to be happier and healthier.

Generally, it is assumed that British people want to live on their own – they prefer to stay in the family home, though this may be unsuitable for them, and their independence may eventually lead to isolation. Others will move to self-contained purpose built retirement homes, which may have some social facilities, but may be managed by a commercial company. However, there are other, more community-oriented possibilities, such as:-

A “Living Co-operative”. The key point with co-operatives is that is that the members are in charge of their own lives together – there need be no external management company. A Living Co-operative would be something of a new hybrid, but it is an option worth considering:-

  • Each person buys their own studio flat (or larger flat) in a new development.
  • People then share some daily living tasks– perhaps sharing one meal a day, tea or coffee every day; cooking and cleaning in the shared areas
  • There may be more shared facilities available  - lounge, arts and crafts room, games room, workshop, laundry, guest rooms, garden etc. (especially in a purpose-built development)
  • The membership would be “designed” so that a third of the members are each in their 60’s, 70’s, and older, and new members who join must fit this demographic pattern.
  • Members can provide some simple care services for each other – help getting dressed and putting socks on, a cup of tea, a bit of hand-holding when needed.
  • As and when necessary, specialist carers and nurses can also be brought in, as can cleaners, cooks and maintenance staff.
  • The scheme could be structured on a co-operative or Commonhold basis.

I originally sent this out in 2011 to members of the Mole Valley LETS group – some of us had discussed issues such as “what do we want as we get older ?” at our trading mornings. We suspected that society will provide less and less for us as time goes on. Obviously, we will all get older, and our abilities will diminish, and, we may fall into the clutches of the “health and care industries”. Many people are now “singletons”, and I think we could help each other a lot in a scheme like this. Some of us will eventually need professional care, but we can delay that by:-

  • Being happier and interested in what we are doing
  • Caring for each other and socialising more
  • Living in accommodation which is purpose built for older people (with lifts, etc.)

At the time, 3 or 4 people were interested in these ideas, but this was insufficient to actually do anything. If anyone else is interested now, I’m happy to gather names and try and put you in touch with each other. I myself am in the process of selling my house and moving to Liverpool, but I plan to move to a scheme like this in 10 years time when I am 75. (There is also a longer document I can send out).

Further Resources. There are several resources available if you are interested

  • Search for the HAPPI report (and HAPPI 2) – they visited many schemes in the UK and Europe
  • Read “Keeping Control of our Lives” and “Growing Old Together” by the Co-operative Development Service
  • Lifetime Homes is a website partly sponsored by Age UK with design criteria for older people
  • Diggers and Dreamers is a website of existing communities, and proposals for new groups       

Below are the actual links, though I’m sure people could find them OK themselves in the above version