Lifestyle Co-housing offers older people independent, fulfilling lives

Co-housing offers older people independent, fulfilling lives

Co-housing offers a cost-effective solution to the housing challenge presented by the ageing population and the trend to single-person households, new research from University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has found.

However, the researchers found co-housing has an image problem: people reimagine the share houses of their youth or anticipate giving up their privacy.

Housing the ageing population of New South Wales presents a major challenge for the state, particularly in a time of rising housing costs, with one in three NSW households destined to be single-person households within a decade.

The research team from the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS spent a year exploring alternative living options for older people, talking to housing and ageing policy-makers, co-housing developers and older people themselves.

Professor Chris Riedy, who led the research, said co-housing offers an attractive housing option but few are aware of its potential. “Most people still think of hippies, communes or share houses,” he said.

Professor Riedy and the research team identified various co-housing options including purpose-built developments, housing co-operatives and renovating existing single dwellings to accommodate additional residences.

There was much to be done in myth-busting and in raising awareness of co-housing among older people, Professor Riedy said.

“Very few older people in the focus groups had heard of co-housing, though guessed it involved sharing living space. ‘A nice idea but not for me’ was a common response,” he said.

The team found that to realise the housing affordability and sustainability benefits of co-housing there is an urgent need to fund and promote demonstration projects to raise awareness of co-housing options.

“We found co-housing can help older people stay in a part of the city they love, in a supportive environment that will provide them with social interaction and greater access to services as they age,” Professor Riedy said.

Read more about the co-housing study here. Story credit: University of Technology Sydney newsroom.

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