It looks like many of our conversations during lockdown revolved around ways to improve our day-to-day lives and this topic kept coming up. What I wouldn’t give for a chance to be neighbours, to share childcare, a meal or a drink, to build a community with my best friends.
Our Zoom chats with our female friends started with us sharing our frustration about not being able to travel, it then morphed into holiday plans and ended in planning a community. And then came the realisation Why plan a vacation together when you can plan a life?
“What I wouldn’t give for a chance to be neighbours, to share childcare, a meal or a drink, to build a community with my best friends. ”
It turns out that this was not something triggered by the pandemic, people have been having these discussions for years, triggered by various other events in our lives like retirement, divorce and the desire to be around the people we enjoy spending time with. The pandemic was just a reminder that we should spend more time with the people we have bonded with in our lives.
“We like to think that this is how Thelma & Louise would have handled life, if they hadn’t driven off that cliff!”
Some time ago we wrote about ‘Why you should retire with friends’. It was sparked by the story of 7 women from southeastern China who have purchased a dream home as part of their pact to retire and die together. This story struck a chord with the Thelma & Louise members and we like to think that this is how Thelma & Louise would have handled retirement, if they hadn’t driven off that cliff!
But is a retirement commune all about knocking down fences and having a joint space to enjoy? Or sharing a house and having professional assistance to take care of us? When we asked our community of members and followers ‘What does your ideal retirement community looks like?’ here’s what they had to say and how they see it working:
Moving to the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel:
Kristana: My dream is to have a geriatric “Melrose Place” (if you ever saw that cheesy show, it is an open style apartment complex with a pool in the center where everyone has a sense of community) in a developing country. Everyone would have their own villa and a way to have privacy on this compound. I would want to build a community center and cafe where meals are cooked daily, have a community garden, employ/train locals to learn the business. We could have a circulating masseuse, exercise classes, etc. And of course, we would have a slew of rescue animals for which we share responsibility.
Anna: Moved to Barbados for 2021 and am travelling to other countries for the next 10+ years in part to find one that values, includes and cares for older people in the mainstream community rather than segregating me off further and further. Gotta say, though, Barbados is paradise.
Rob: My solution is to do a snowbird sunbird exchange.. 1-3 winter months spare room at your house in Florida or Southern California in exchange for 1-3 summer months in my spare room beautiful Colorado...anyone?
Sharing a house or a village:
Eva: The quickest and easiest way to start this community would be to take over a trailer park.
Caroline: My friends and I have been talking about creating a "village" for some years. We even went to look at some resorts that were for sale about ten years ago but all of us were still working and nothing more transpired. We still hold onto that dream but realizing it seems more and more unattainable.
Pat: A close friend and I had this dream - a bunch of bungalows in Mendocino California with older single women - older, but different ages so that the younger women could help elders. A community kitchen that you could participate in only if you wanted, rules on how long male partners could stay; rules on how long grandkids could stay. A community garden. That's as far as we ever got. She died a couple years ago from Alzheimer's.
Gail: I was part of developing a cohousing in Canada but I moved out about a year ago and just sold my place there. I still lift early close by in the covid ever ends hope to still attend lecture series and things like that there.
Certainly more and more people are looking at developing a community, not necessarily based on cohousing, but house sharing or getting places close together so they can keep an eye on each other, especially singles.
Anna: Check out the cohousing.org. All things cohousing including workshops, classes, contractors and listings
Bonding over activities:
Vickie: I would love to live in a retirement community because I cannot drive and there are activities usually and people in the complex gather. I would feel much safer in a community like that. And I can drive a golf cart! I would love to see a community of like duplexes or four Plexes were each person has a little tiny bit of a yard just a patio yard but that way if we want to have a small tiny dog we could . And I would also be able to have a place with an extra bedroom for my kids to come and visit and my grandkids two bedroom one bath would be ideal.
Frances: My ideal retirement community would consist entirely of old unrepentant hippies like me.
Living with people of all ages:
Mary: I would have to move kicking and screaming. Well, seriously, if I really could not take care of myself at all, I would not want to be a burden and would cooperate. But I love being among people of all ages and would not want to be stuck with all seniors. I can't say I love all my neighbors but I like hearing the sounds of the neighbors teen practice drums on a Saturday and the kids outside playing in the afternoons.
Lois: I also like living in a community that has people of all ages. A problem with the over 55 communities is that they often have most of their residents in a very narrow age range— which has advantages when in the younger end but can get depressing as the group ages.
Karen: It's not natural to live the majority of your time with people of the same age or sex. We have so much to learn, give, share across the generations. I would hate it, my solution is to move into a smaller house or to rent out a room in my current home to make sure I have a bit of company and support if needed.
J.House: After a year of living alone in lockdown I am wondering if a community wouldn't be a better way to live. I'm reluctant to go for a McCarthy & Stone type of retirement home as I'd like more of an ethos in terms of how we live, spaces to share, space we don't. I looked at the OUCH community in Barnet (women only) and it is an interesting place but a long waiting list. That's about all I can say right now.
Lee: I would definitely move to a community for women.
Do you live in a commune? Have you ever planned one with your friends? Could you imagine yourself living in one? Would love to hear from you.