Let’s shift gears a bit and talk about something else aside from painting ideas for your walls or homes. The topic is a lifestyle trend called cohousing or co-living, which is on the rise. Read on and find out why.

Cohousing is a way of living where people with shared values create a community. The physical space usually has private homes for each resident or family, and also shared spaces — kitchen, living room, laundry area, garden and recreational rooms, where neighbors can come together.

When I lived in the Netherlands, I saw such a community. They were artists, with their families, who chose to live close to each other. They shared a creative ethos, and this kind of living arrangement was a broedplaats (or breeding ground) where they could work as a collective. It was also practical, like in matters of childcare.

Social isolation, which is one of the challenges of today’s society, is minimized by cohousing. Because of the shared spaces, residents can enjoy eating together and having group activities.

For communal living to work though, it is important that residents share similar political or religious views, or environmental and social ideologies.

Co-living with Families, Friends, and Strangers

Living with Family

Have you heard of the sandwich generation? People in their 40s up to 60s usually belong to this group. They are those who are still taking care of their children, maybe even grandchildren, while also taking care of their aging parents. If you’re single, you may have nieces and nephews who you send through school, and your parents to support. It’s rare for someone to only have themselves to take care of, because in our culture, family is at the heart of the social structure.

Some families in the Philippines opt to live in family compounds. These are usually detached houses with one entrance into the property. This is an ideal solution for the sandwich generation, who can rely on the extended family to help them out.

Living Together with Your BFFs

It’s not only blood relatives that can make use of this living arrangements. This can also definitely work for good friends.

Remember the Golden Girls? This is the approach of these seven Chinese girlfriends, who built one house in Guangzhou so they could live together in the future. This is an idea for people who want to have their friends close by in their senior years.

Intergenerational Communities

The cohousing movement started in Denmark in the mid-1960s. The founder Danish architect Jan Gudmand-Hoyer wanted a housing arrangement that had a strong sense of community. He wrote publicly about this. Others joined in the discussion, and the first cohousing community called Saettedammen was established in 1972. Today, the community is still going strong. It is an intergenerational group made up of “singles, couples, retirees, and families with children.” (Saskia de Melker)

Lisa Berkman, a professor of Public Policy and Epidemiology at Harvard University, said, “Social isolation relates to the number of ties and the quality of relationships that you have: religious ties, community ties, work ties. People who are very isolated, who are disconnected, have a mortality rate that’s about three times as high. That is, they’re about three times as likely to die over maybe a decade, as people who have many, many more ties.”

It’s not only the prevention of social isolation but also the opportunity to live with people of different ages. For a senior resident in Saettedammen, she finds that having children and young people around keeps her youthful. For the young people, they are exposed to the process of life. They see people getting older, retiring, having health issues, and eventually passing away. They also feel safe having many adults around, whom they consider as “parents”.

This kind of community is similar to extended families here in our country.

Co-living is a Millennial Housing Trend

The fast pace of life today and all the stresses that it brings, open the door to consider another way of living. Sharing seems to be the path of choice. Two common examples you’ll find in the country today are coworking spaces (for young entrepreneurs, freelancers, and students) and peer-to-peer ridesharing, like Grab. Definitely with these two, you can save time and money.

In cohousing, the upsides are also savings in time and money. More people can divide among themselves the costs for meals, group activities, household necessities, and energy. But the most important advantage of cohousing is the sense of community that it promises and usually delivers.

Ikea uses the term co-living. Its innovation lab Space10 created an online research platform One Shared House 2030 to help the company develop concepts for the future of co-living. It is serious research but also playful. If you have the time, do answer the questions. You may be helping to shape the future.

Senior Housing Innovations

In mid-2000, a conversion took place in my former neighborhood in Amsterdam. An old building was transformed into a place for assisted living. Seniors who wanted more privacy than that offered in homes for the aged, opted to live in this type of housing development. People in their 70s could plan how they were going to spend the rest of their lives, which usually meant downsizing to this kind of condo building. Residents could come together in the social spaces, but they had their own apartments that offered them privacy. The most important thing was that they had 24/7 medical care in the building.

This video about Dementia Village (De Hogeweyk), is more than simple cohousing.

De Hogeweyk is a cutting edge senior housing development for people with dementia located in Weesp, Netherlands. The residents share spaces like the gardens, grocery store, movie theaters, and post office, which are also manned by caregivers. Residents have their homes styled in accordance with the time that they started losing their memories. It’s not surprising to see interior styles from different decades. This supports the theory that comfortable and familiar surroundings (environment) affects behavior and mood. “It is reported that the people living at this facility are much happier than those living in other standard elder care homes.” (Josh Planos)

The Boysen blog Let it B brings you inspiration, not only for painting ideas, colors and designs, but also for living concepts. Read about another lifestyle trend called Tiny or Micro Living.



Annie is the Managing Editor of Let it B | MyBoysen Blog. An unrepentant workaholic, she runs this blog and her own company Talking Lions (https://talkinglions.com). She thrives on collaborating with people who are good at what they do, and working together with them to create something special. Annie learned interior styling while managing her own wholesale business in the Netherlands, importing high-end, handmade home furnishings to stock four outlets and a showroom in the country.

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