Cohousing for the AARP Bulletin

A while back, I got to go to Nevada City, California to check out a beautiful little cohousing community.  For those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t before this assignment) cohousing is, according to wikipedia “a type of intentional community composed of private homes supplemented by shared facilities. The community is planned, owned and managed by the residents – who also share activities which may include cooking, dining, child care, gardening, and governance of the community. Common facilities may include a kitchen, dining room, laundry, child care facilities, offices, internet access, guest rooms, and recreational features.”

Sometimes wikipedia says it better than I can.  Anyway, it’s a really neat village concept where you intentionally interact with your neighbors.  Speaking as someone who lives in a high rise with about 400 units but knows not a single neighbor, I rather like the notion of a micro-community that takes care of its own.  I photographed this assignment for the AARP Bulletin, which means this type of living is appealing to more and more seniors, but Nevada City Cohousing’s demographics didn’t skew heavily one way or another.  It was a mix of very young, very old and everyone in between.  I was there during a freak snowstorm and power-outage, so it was particularly interesting to see how the community came together to ensure everyone was taken care of.

Neighbors hang out.

Bernice folds laundry in the common house.

Perfect hot tub weather.

Violin lessons.

Tween hangout in the common house.

Architects Kathryn McCamant (center, in black) and Charles Durrett (far left) discuss plans for future cohousing communities in their office.  They are married to each other, live in Nevada City Cohousing, and are credited with bringing the whole cohousing concept to the United States.

A model of the Nevada City Cohousing neighborhood

Residents can have cars and there are garages to park them, but they are not attached to the homes, which are only accessible by walkways.

A resident shows me the grounds.  The grounds were quite beautiful.  Nevada City is in the mountains in northern California and the area has an exciting gold rush history.  Now, I think the area specializes in a gold rush of a different sort.  While I was grabbing a bite to eat in town, I mentioned to my waitress that I was in-town on business.  She nodded knowingly and said “Oh yeah, my ex-boyfriend used to be in the pot trade too.”

If I recall correctly, the design is inspired by a Norwegian fishing village.

Solar panels on the roof of the common house.  There are a lot of green elements built into the design of the community.

Mail time.

Prepping for one of the regular group dinners.  They’re not mandatory at all, but the turnout is usually pretty good.  People do choose to live in cohousing for exactly this sort of thing.

Spaghetti time!

Clean-up and post-dinner rewards with Kathryn and Charles.