Who chooses cohousing? Educated women aged over 65

Photo: Thomas Kelley / Unsplash
14/06/2017
Ainhoa Sorrosal
Users have worked in education, health and social welfare

Women, with a medium to high level of education who worked in the fields of education, health or social welfare. This is the average profile of people over 65 who decide to live in cohousing in Spain. The first experiences in Spain of this cohousing for senior citizens date back to the year 2000. Currently, there are 34 groups – 6 in Catalonia – at different stages. They are projects that encourage a shared life, mutual help and care services among senior citizens to foster active ageing.

These are the main preliminary results of the MOVICOMA project, the first study on cohousing for the elderly in Spain, which has monitored 13 groups. The study was presented on Monday morning in Barcelona in a session organized by the IN3-UOC CareNet (Care and Preparedness in the Network Society) research group, led by the researcher Daniel Lpez Gmez.

“The ability to decide how to live out your old age and put into practice new ways of taking collective responsibility for this stage of life is one of the distinctive points of these groups,” argues Lpez The study reveals that the main motive for living in a cohousing project is “to grow old independently", "to share and live in a community” and “to have the right conditions and services”. “Being active only makes sense when one can decide, comments the researcher.

According to the study, for every 10 women only 3.5 men choose this way of life. “They have social, cultural and political capital that enables them to forge ahead with demanding projects like this one on their own initiative. They form groups with different kinds of expertise and different leadership styles, but they all usually work in a highly participatory way and become cooperatives,” notes Lpez.

In the cohousing groups being created the average age is 65 and among the pioneers who already live in a community it rises to 75. All of this can take nine years. But what factors favour this life choice?

  • Care crisis. Family care is unsustainable and creates forms of exploitation particularly suffered by women. The reduction of the nuclear family and support networks, becoming parents at an older age, changes in the job market and growing social mobility means that ageing people do not want to be a burden on their children. Meanwhile, there are increasingly more childless, single or divorced old people looking for future alternatives faced with a welfare state in crisis.
  •  A negative perception of old people’s homes. In most cases, they cannot qualify for a public care home but also cannot afford the cost of a private care home. Moreover, they understand that this option is the first step in losing personal independence and therefore dignity.
  • The need to create new links when neighbour and friendship networks are weakening. The option of growing old at home is seen as an option of solitude. The possibility of living in a community represents the ability to widen your social circle.
  • The need to continue being active after retirement. Starting a cohousing process has a strong entrepreneurial component and this enables many people to continue an active personal, social and political life.

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Daniel Lpez Gmez

Researcher of the CareNet group at the UOC.

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