Some days ago I saw a British documentary about the city of Moscow, part of a series of documentaries called “Big Cities of the World”. The documentary was focused mainly about nowadays’ lifestyle of inhabitants of Moscow, Russia.
Collective House during Communism System
I was impressed with the story of a mature lady, which owned a big flat in Moscow. She told the journalists that during communism system her house was used as collective house. I had never heard about the ‘collective house’ concept before. She explained that there were four different families living in the apartment, each one occupying one bedroom. The other parts of the house were considered collective/commune area: kitchen, bathroom, dinning space, halls, etc. All inhabitants shared the apartment living in a collective way.
The state decided who would live in the same apartment, and everybody was obliged to accept state officials’ decision. The landlord said that there were times they lived in harmony together, but there were other cases when they had co-inhabitants with non-orthodox living habits causing problems to the other families.
That period (communism) was over and now she lived in her flat only with her own family.
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But, seems that the concept of communal living, or living in closed communities is still on around other parts of the world. It is called ‘Co-housing’ and is a intentional community of private homes clustered around shared ‘green’ spaces. Each family has its own private home, including a private kitchen as well. While the shared spaces are composed of a small green area in the middle and a big common house which may include: large kitchen and dinning area, laundry, guest suits, and recreational spaces. [Image taken from UK Cohousing site]
Where do Co-housing Concept comes from
The concept of co-housing was invented in Nordic Countries (Denmark and Nederland) in the ’70-s and derived from an old traditional way of living in these countries. It is similar to small villages in the past, where everybody knew each-other and lived closely related together. The idea is to collect in one co-housing community people that are somehow related to each-other, non-blood related: senior people, students, people living away from their families, artists or people from the same profession, etc. This way of living allows people to have enough privacy with their individual families and lots of social life right outside of their door. People living in co-housing communities respect the rules of community regarding usage of common assets and maintenance of the co-housing area.
Co-housing (or community housing) sounds unusual choice for modern individuals, who love so much their personal freedom up to the point to choose to live away from their own families. So, why people find co-housing an interesting option? How come more and more people decide to join such communities and the concept is becoming more and more recognized and accepted by general public? What are the benefits of this way of living?
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Why People Choose Co-housing Living?
It seems that co-housing is ‘curing’ two very important factors of modern life:
- Solitude (loneliness)
- Financial Burden.
Community members take care of each-other and share most part of their leisure time with other members of community. This has shown to be very effective, especially at senior co-housing communities, where senior people over a set age (55 or more), use life in community as a way to escape the damages that solitude cause to their health. They are more socially active, have more personal space (compared to nursery homes) and have found co-housing as a cheaper option to live their seniority years.
Co-housing homes cost the same market value as other houses in the same area, but living expenses are less. The fact that all members share some of the most costly areas of a normal house, makes possible for them to pay less for assets, for utilities and other living expenses. That’s why this way of living is becoming quite attractive in the last decade. People are capable to keep under control their living expenses and will not feel so much the weight of solitude and lack of their original families.
Senior Co-housing in Europe and USA
Senior co-housing was introduced in Europe on year 1990, while in USA on 2005. It sounds this will be the choice senior individuals will make as a better fit for their needs. It is understandable that this way of living is not a good fit for senior people that need consistent nursery. But, for elderly people with normal health conditions, this seems to be a great way to live a life of personal space & freedom, and feel the nice presence of people that are willing to spend time with them and take care for each-others problems. It is an acceptable compromise for lonely people that suffer lack of attention from their own families and that find themselves alone in the most difficult years of life.
I wonder if this is a turning-back point in history, when people start to live in big communities, instead of their previous choice to live in separated small families. Who knows?! Might be, this is the beginning of a new era when modern human beings will start to gather in alike groups (by choice) in order to protect themselves from modern life’s symptoms and to have a better quality of their lives. Is this going to prove a better living way compare to family life (this one is not a chosen option)? This is still too early to say. However, community housing remains an old solution that transitioned to the new era as a lifestyle of choice, now for more and more people in the developed countries.
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