More people are single, or solo, than ever before and it no longer makes sense for architects to build homes exclusively for families. Just because we’re all living single doesn’t mean we all have to live in isolation from community, and cohousing communities like Common are the best (and coolest) solution for living alone, together.
I remember learning about cohousing communities in Denmark and thinking how it would be the perfect housing solution for my mom, a 60-something single with a lust for life and who values her independence, but often finds her little house in the suburbs to be too isolating and lonely. I thought to myself, now that so many of my friends are choosing not to get married (or delaying that particular milestone) and live independently, cohousing communities may be the perfect solution for solo Millennials too.
As reported in Fast Company, one of the main reasons why Americans are beginning to die earlier is isolation — living alone increases mortality risk 32%. Architect Grace Kim thinks that a solution may be differently designed housing. “Loneliness can be the result of our built environment,” she told an audience at TED 2017. “It turns out when you eat together, you start planning more activities together.”
How many people can see that they really know their neighbours?
Typical houses are socially isolating, even if you are a full family, but condominiums and apartments can be even worse. How many of us who have lived in condo complexes like City Place in Toronto look at our phones in the elevator rather than having a friendly chat with our neighbour? Cohousing communities are the anecdote for lonely living situations without compromising one’s independence.
Kim lives and works in a cohousing community she designed in Seattle, where families or individuals each have their own homes, but the space was designed for interaction. From the outside, the community looks like any other small apartment building, and the nine apartments inside have individual living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens and baths. But the design, modeled on Danish cohousing communities that began to grow 50 years ago, has a central common house and courtyard.
In the common house, everyone dines together three times a week, taking turns cooking for each other. Kim only cooks once every six weeks; two other times, she helps with prep and cleanup. “All those other nights, I just show up,” she says. “I have dinner, talk with my neighbors.”
Those meals lead to more connections. “It turns out when you eat together, you start planning more activities together,” Kim says. “When you eat together, you share more things. You start to watch each other’s kids. You lend each other power tools. You borrow each others’ cars.”