Cohousing (cohousing): what is it and what lifestyle do you propose? - psychology - 2023



We live in a society that over time has become increasingly individualistic, at least in urban areas: each one worries about his own life and those of his closest environment, but the feeling has been lost of community and union with the rest of the people around us.

This tendency to individualism is gradually becoming more perceptible to us, and with the passage of time alternative ways and models of life have emerged that, theoretically, try to generate community. An example of this is cohousing, which we are going to talk about throughout this article.

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What is cohousing or cohousing?

It is known as cohousing, or in Spanish cohousing, to a community model or style that involves the creation of a self-managed community in which coexistence focuses on the community and on cooperation with the rest of its members.

Based on solidarity with the rest of the community and with an organization that functions democratically, it is a type of organization that supposes the generation of a supportive socio-community network and in which there is great cohesion among the people who are part of it.

This type of community is generally configured around one or (more commonly), multiple houses or individual buildings with different shared common areas where social and community life takes place. Each one of the users or inhabitants of a cohousing is an active part of this community, and also has a responsibility to participate in its management.

Although the name may make it seem otherwise, cohousing does not necessarily imply that everyone lives in the same house and without any kind of privacy: although there are cases in which multi-family dwellings are built and cohabited, generally each individual or family has their own home.

Each of the members of this community has their own personal and economic autonomy. Now, sometimes in this type of society the economic system may tend to reduce or eliminate the idea of ​​private property to favor collective property (although its economy is not shared), and trade based on the exchange or barter of services.

Main characteristics of cohousing

One of the main bases of a cohousing is that it is based, as we have seen previously, on solidarity and in the search for social cohesion and active participation in the community.

Another of them is sustainability, since it starts from a design directly thought for the use that will be provided to each of the spaces. In addition, it allows to give a use and return to life to sparsely inhabited areas or in the process of abandonment, as these communities can use these areas, remodel them and live in them (something that also allows to recover or keep alive the history of these places ).

It is also common for community spaces to find elements that allow the management and production of own resources, such as orchards.

In addition to this, as one of the most relevant bases of cohousing we can cite the way of organizing and making decisions. There is no hierarchical structure (although it is possible for an individual to take a leadership role in some aspect in which they decide to specialize).

The relationship to domiciles can be variable. The most common is that the houses are not owned by the individual, but by the community, of which the user has a lifetime usufruct, and are designed or adapted to the needs of the subject. In this sense they have the advantage that they do not involve an economic expense as high as that of maintaining a home of your own.

Last but not least, it allows reducing problems such as the aforementioned loneliness and the need for care without having to lose independence at the individual level, while generating a collaborative culture and a common bond between the members of the created society.

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Implantation in the elderly: senior cohousing

Cohousing is a trend that, although not particularly well known, is gradually becoming more popular. Its history is not so recent: its most modern origins are in the sixties, specifically in Denmark, from where it was expanding in the Nordic countries and the United States. Since then, different modalities have emerged, of which one of the most widespread today (at least in Spain) is that which has to do with the elderly.

In senior cohousing, the inhabitants of the community are people over 55 years of age. The reason why the popularity of this type of community organization has increased in this sector is the existence of two of the most painful scourges that a large number of the elderly may have to face: loneliness and, in the case of people with few resources, poverty.

Many people resort to cohousing since it allows them to maintain an organization based on solidarity and social cohesion, as well as greatly reducing the economic cost of maintaining a house or a rental today.

And not only that: one of the social implications of this type of cohousing is that a paternalistic vision of old age is put aside, in which the old man himself was seen as a rather passive subject. Instead, the activity of the elderly person is promoted as someone with experience and with the need to participate in the world around them, giving them responsibility and the possibility of exercising different types of social functions according to community needs.