Cohousing Conundrums

Co-housing is on the rise.  So are the robots.  I’ve put in a request to the powers-that-be to ensure that each rises with the other.  Technically, they’re both here already; however, I’m talking specifically for us future b’oldies.  We want the security and fun of living in a supportive community of our own devising, and a slave or two to go with it.  Then, hopefully I’ll be gone from this world before those robots get too smart, and realise that slavery is both abhorrent and illegal.

We already have cohousing in a manner of speaking.  We have apartment buildings and living complexes specifically created for the 50+ or 60+ age groups.  However, these are usually for sale to anyone, and everyone has separate and individual lives.  Real cohousing is more about those who are on the same page as each other about life and the values they hold – or at least within spitting distance of it.  Or, families and/or friends throwing their lot in with each other.  There’s no guarantee that either of these will automatically result in peace and harmony, but there is usually a guarantee of mutual support, and the avoidance of loneliness and boredom.  With real cohousing, there is a much better idea about who we’re likely to fight with, what we’ll fight about, and how long the sulking afterwards will last.  Of course, this may make us not want to go near it with a ten-foot barge pole, especially if there could be blood up the walls.  For others, a bit of fighting is just business as usual – not looking at any family in particular.  However, the main idea is that we’ll be there for each other for the long haul, whatever has gone down in between times.

Upon looking into this cohousing lark – cohousing.org.nz – there appears to be a common theme of sustainability, environmental responsibility, and strong community bonds and support.  In some cohousing complexes, there are stand-alone houses clustered on communal land, and although arranged so that there is some element of privacy, the communal concept reigns supreme, with regular communal activities, duties, and events.  Meeting and knowing one’s neighbours is unavoidable, which is the actual point of it.  Other cohousing complexes are a more like apartment buildings or terrace houses, but operate along the sample principles.

So far, in New Zealand anyway, there doesn’t seem to be a more relaxed type of cohousing, where one can skive off or hibernate if desired.  They all seem to require ongoing involvement for the common good.   Whilst I like the idea of cohousing, I also wonder how I’d get along if it was my day to mow the lawn or weed the garden, but I wanted to spend the afternoon reading instead – or spend it in the beer garden of the local pub.  A high level of cooperative thinking and participation appears to be required, so the skiving-off or afternoons-in-the-pub types would need to jog on.  Whilst spending an afternoon in the pub hasn’t appealed to me since those youthful days when wasting time was a viable option rather than bad time management, I still know how to skive, and how to enjoy it.

Cohousing also requires participation in a communal meal or two during the week in the common room, using veg from the communal gardens, of course, and teams of people get rostered on for that.  I can just see them welcoming the vegan – i.e. me – with open arms (not) both for the partaking of the meals and the producing of them.  Although sustainability is an ongoing theme throughout many cohousing complexes, I’m guessing that most of the residents don’t want to be that sustainable.  Upon further reflection, pulling out the ‘vegan card’ could work in my favour.  I don’t get to participate in the communal meals, so I don’t need to participate in the garden work, but I still get to live in a nice cohousing complex, and skive if and when I want to.  This is starting to look a bit better.

I think I would initially need to employ some subterfuge, though, and not pull out the vegan card until I was established – “Oh, sorry.  Yes, I know I read all the rules carefully beforehand, and signed that I agreed to, and understood, everything, but I just forgot about the vegan thing.  I was simply so excited about everything else at the time.”  From what I know of men, which is both a lot by now and nothing at all, many of them wouldn’t be keen to have me in the kitchen (damn), being of the firm belief that their testicles will shrivel if they don’t eat animal products.  As an aside, there is substantial evidence showing that things in that department get both bigger and better from eating a diet that’s predominantly plant foods, if not entirely plant-based.  Just saying.  However, the tide is turning, and my evil plan could possibly all turn to custard, if it turns out that they’re happy to embrace plant-based eating as a part of their lifestyle.  Possibly, in more populous parts of the world, there may be fully plant-based eating cohousing complexes, but here in New Zealand, that is still a radical idea.  However, the emerging demographic of baby boomer vegan women, and the handful of men, could see this become a real option for b’older vegans.

There’s a lot of fun and enjoyment to be had with peers who have similar values and lifestyles to our own.  I can see us sitting around an outside fire, beverage of choice in hand, telling stories from our past that have little in common with what actually happened, but everyone appreciating the humour or horror of it more than caring about the truth of it.  If we’re really old, the same story could be told over and over, and it would be new to us each time.  That’s real value.  And then walking home afterwards, no driving involved, only our robots helping us to not fall off the paths.  Maybe there’d be shenanigans in different bedrooms on the way, after all we’re talking about plant-munchers here, and the better functioning blood pressure, hearts, and hydraulics that they generally enjoy.  The shenanigans could be like the stories, too – new to us each time.

It’s nice to mix it up a bit, though.  I worked with a Fijian Indian once, who when living in Fiji in his younger days, had lived in a fenced “compound” with other extended family members in their own homes.  This was done more for security reasons, and the gate would be shut and locked each night.  However, I see the attraction and benefit of living amongst different age groups, for all concerned, as well as the attraction of living with peers.  To my mind something between the two sounds good to me – without the roster.

2 thoughts on “Cohousing Conundrums

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