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Cohousing Comes of Age

Elder cohousing

Glacier Circle Senior community, the nations's first elder cohousing Photo by Neshama Abraham Paiss

Ten years ago I was introduced to the cohousing movement by Zev Paiss, co-founder of the Cohousing Association of the U.S. He spoke passionately about creating environmentally sustainable communities through cohousing's signature design: private homes with communal land and a “common house” for shared meals and social activities. At that time there were 12 cohousing neighborhoods nationwide. Now, thousands of people enjoy this lifestyle.

One of the lessons of the last 10 years is that cohousing's high degree of social cohesion fosters commitment to environmental stewardship. Cohousing residents preserve green space by living in clusters of small homes with energy-saving shared walls. They share other resources also, including tools, garden tools, toys, and cars. Residents bike and use public transportation.

Currently there are more than 100 cohousing communities being planned or built. At this rate, cohousing communities in the U.S. may triple over the next 10 years. “Green building,” “healthy homes,” and “sustainable community” will continue to be core values for cohousing. Mixed-income cohousing projects will be built with both government and foundation support. Another trend will be continued social/political action arising from cohousing neighborhoods, like the residents of Tierra Nueva cohousing in Oceano, California, who acted to reduce local pesticide use.

A third emerging trend is the growth of elder cohousing neighborhoods—a model successfully implemented in Denmark where there are more than 100 cohousing projects for people age 55 and up (see ElderCohousing.org).

I salute the cohousing residents of the past 10 years who had the courage to try something new. Perhaps the next decade will see my husband Zev's vision come to pass—that you can walk across the country and stay each night in a cohousing common house!


Neshama Abraham Paiss is president of Abraham Paiss & Associates, Inc. a Boulder, CO cohousing consulting firm.

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