focus on Seniors
by Holly Glen Gearhart
– Contributing Writer –
In recent weeks, our series on housing for senior citizens has looked at the lack of affordable housing in the Valley. This week we turn to solutions.
Some seniors around the nation have formed what are called “intentional communities.” Loosely defined, an intentional community is formed by people who share a common philosophy or political ideal of living. Those who live in the community share duties such as gardening, building, caretaking and other functions which support the “village” concept.
A popular form of intentional community is “co-housing.” Co-housing was first implemented in Denmark in the 1960s when a group of people joined together to form a community lifestyle which they felt would better serve their growing families than what we in the U.S. have come to know as planned communities. The concept spread to the U.S. in the ‘60s.
Sharing the duties in a self-governing community such as co-housing, multicultural and inter-generational cultural differences become part of the quilt of the participants’ lives. Often, and this is where co-housing can be an answer to our aging population; there is a desire to add elders to the community. Rather than put people out-to-pasture when they reach the age of 60 or better, their life experiences, rich in history and wealth of knowledge, is shared with children—of all ages.
Starting an intentional community or co-housing begins with desire; would you, as a senior citizen, prefer to live in a senior community or prefer the autonomy of an apartment lifestyle? Does the thought of having a rich resource of people to interact with, on a daily basis, seem like something you would like to do?
Beginning such an endeavor is an enormous undertaking; purchasing land, building housing, complying with building codes, screening people to join the community. If this idea is attractive to you there are books available to guide you through the process. There are also existing co-housing and intentional communities right here in Washington. Follow this link to learn where existing communities are and who to contact: www.cohousing.org.
Budget cuts have greatly diminished funds and non-profit donations are down, as are some state monies that set aside to provide housing options. However, even when times are financially tough, a few community groups still do what they can.
The United Way is one such group. In a conversation with Neil Parekh, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for United Way of Snohomish County, Parekh stated that his organization is doing what it can to address the concern of affordable housing for everyone, including seniors.
They also work to support seniors in other ways in the community.
”Three volunteer teams from Senior Aerospace Damar Aerosystems in Monroe helped Full Life Care organize a casino day, and did cleanup projects at Northshore Senior Center in Bothell,” he said. “Staff from the Monroe/Sky Valley Family YMCA cleaned gutters for an elderly couple in Snohomish.”
When asked about needs in the Sky Valley, Parekh says, “Housing insecurity is a growing concern in Snohomish County. We know people are hurting. It’s no different in the Valley. At United Way, we take great care to understand what is going on in the community, and respond by targeting our investments where it can do the most good. In our current three-year funding cycle, we have supported programs managed by Cocoon House and Housing Hope to help address concerns related to housing.”
Just this year, on Friday Sept. 21, the United Way’s homebuilding team, along with volunteers from Crane Aerospace & Electronics, helped build homes for Housing Hope. The volunteers helped frame a house and worked on a driveway, readying it for concrete, on Currie Road in Monroe.
Parekh says United Way is in the process of gathering information about the needs of the Valley as they look for assistance during their upcoming three-year funding drive.
If you have some input to this funding cycle, please pass that along to the Monitor and we will make certain that your concern is voiced to the United Way.