A review on “Senior cohousing communities – an alternative approach for the UK” by Maria Brenton.

Cohousing is a form of group living that clusters individual homes around a‘common house’ or shared space and amenities. People cohousing live both ‘apart and together’ with neighbours who know each other and sign up to certain values. They form a community, and a sense of community does not ‘just happen’ merely from putting people together. Group cohesion requires specific capacity building if groups are to function well and harmoniously. Among the two cohousing models – the family-based model and senior cohousing, the article mainly discussed the later one.

Senior cohousing needs policy makers to recognize the benefits for older people of living in this way and to work to remove the obstacles that impede them. On the construction of senior cohousing, the author find Dutch experience is the most widely relevant to date through his research. The Dutchmen have developed as part of a public policy response to the anticipated needs of an ageing society. Their government promotes the concept of the ‘living group’ which sustains health and wellbeing and therefore reduces demand on health and social care services. Local authorities have also made modest resources available to older people’s groups. Older people in the groups have been empowered as part of the partnership through learning new skills and competences to become self-dependent. These can supplement older people’s drive and purpose with the financial skills and construction development experience they may lack. Senior cohousing is well developed in Netherland, with a marked feature of its flexibility of approach. Older Dutch people feel free to choose between joining family-based cohousing or forming their own age-peer groups, both seem to be reasonable. However, even though some efforts have been made to transplant the Dutch experience to other countries, it seem to be far from finishing.

It is clear that for senior cohousing to become an established and viable choice for people approaching old age in the UK, development of a broad infrastructure of support is needed. To date, no senior cohousing community has yet managed to establish itself in the UK. Some key barriers still need to be removed for senior cohousing’s progress in the UK, such as: unfamiliarity of the cohousing model, the difficulty of locating sites and the dominance of volume developers, lack of leadership at the national policy-making level and unwillingness to innovate, and so on. More works need be done before the elder UK people can enjoy the recent progress of senior cohousing. Key facilitators to senior cohousing’s progress are not fully established yet.

From the article, I have got a clearer map of the cohousing model and its development in both abroad and in the UK. Indeed, cohousing in the UK needs much more effort to be paid before it can contribute to the common well-being of UK people.

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