My husband Charles and I recently had the opportunity of spending a few nights at Wolf Creek Lodge (WCL), an active adult cohousing community in Grass Valley, California. My goal was to “live it” and to experience first-hand what it would be like to live in a cohousing community with adults 55 plus. Albeit it was only for a few days, we had a wonderful time and I learned a few things…
How to Peel a Carrot
Before our visit, I hadn’t thought about this but, yes, there are many ways to peel a carrot. You can do it right handed, left handed, with a peeler, with a knife, with a grater, even with steel wool.
And isn’t this like life? We blissfully go through life not thinking of new ways (and maybe better ways) of doing something until we are blessed with someone who shows us a new way.
While visiting WCL, I asked a member why she liked living there and she shared that every day she learns something new. She said that it can be something small – like learning a new way to peel a carrot while working side by side with a friend in the common house kitchen. Or it could something big - like how to be a better friend.
This is the power of community, learning new things, big and small, from each other.
What valuable thing has a neighbor taught you today?
A New Approach to Dinner
At WCL, there are a little over 40 members who live in 30 units. About three nights a week, members who desire to do so will get together for a common meal. Typically, about 15 – 20 people will show up and the responsibility for each meal is divided up. It works out that each household prepares and serves a meal about once a month.
There are advantages of this cohousing benefit, one being simply how nice it is to sit down with friends over a meal. But one other much appreciated advantage is the time and energy saved by sharing this chore. We all know how tiresome it can be when faced with cooking a meal for just our own household every night. In cohousing, the responsibility for preparing just one meal is exchanged for many meals prepared for you. This is a great trade-off.
How often have you wished someone would cook your dinner?
During our short stay at WCL, Charles and I experienced first-hand the value of a cohousing dinner and for me, one of my favorite moments was helping my new friend Chuck, 86 years old, do the dishes. Needless to say, it was much more fun doing the dishes with Chuck than doing them by myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve laughed while standing with a dishtowel in my hand.
How to Have Healthy Relationships
Ok, so this is a big topic and the library is filled with books on healthy relationship how-to’s, but one WCL member said it in a nutshell. She shared this, “Be flexible and have patience.”
One thing I really love about cohousing is the commitment that each member must have for the betterment of the whole and the commitment to healthy relationships. Cohousing is not for those who value putting themselves first. If I think about it, when we are flexible and patient with the people in our lives, this is when those relationships have space to flourish.
In what ways have you experienced people being flexible and patient with you?
Good cohousing architectural design is intentional and unique. When a group forms, they work together with an experienced cohousing architect in designing a space that offers the privacy that we all desire but also the common space that allows and promotes both casual and more in-depth interaction.
I so experienced this while visiting WCL. It was easy to retreat to our very comfortable guest room (just as members can retreat to their homes), but there was a design element that allowed us to connect with people in ways that I don’t currently experience living in a traditional condo building. At WCL, we shared a meaningful conversation over dinner, we laughed while cleaning up, we spontaneously chatted outside on the patio over coffee the next morning, and we exchanged quick pleasantries with another couple walking into the community as we were walking out.
Living in a classically designed 1970’s condo building, I can go days without ever seeing one of my neighbors (and this was the same when we lived in house in a neighborhood). Sadly, I think this is the norm for many of us. This has me thinking a lot about the value of good design and the unique value of cohousing. The space we live in matters. It matters to our relationships and to ourselves, and I’m really thankful for the architects who specialize in cohousing and understand this.
When was the last time you interacted with your neighbors?
If you’d like to know more about cohousing design, visit these websites: