As a lot of you know, one of the great killers of older Americans is social isolation. But of course social isolation is a killer of younger Americans as well. We know a lot less than we'd like to about what helps lead happy, fulfilled lives. But we do know that having a large and flourishing social network has a lot to do with it. That's why I think cohousing is so crucially important. Yes, we all need some private space. But do we need nearly as much as most of us (outside of the cramped studio apartments of our big, expensive cities) consume? And while the habits of others can indeed drive us up the wall, as demonstrated by countless nightmarish roommate stories, note that we don't even bother to comment on the quite pleasant roommate stories: it's too commonplace to even mention the various ways friends and even semi-strangers contribute to your well-being when in close quarters. That's why I was so pleased by the following comment, which I will highlight.

It's so nice to come home to a lived-in house. Parties get organized without having to do any work. Your social network gets quadrupled. And I got to play with the 1-year old girl, who was super cute, and occasionally watch her for 15 minutes while her mother ran upstairs. Fun without responsibility ;) I had a few other friends at the time with small children, and the universal story was that staying home with your baby means that you go crazy because of the isolation and lack of social interaction. Well, Maggie (the mother) had plenty of social interaction & adult conversation right at home, and her daughter was very outgoing, comfortable with strangers, and got lots of attention from all of us, which she loved.

Another commenter, Wax Banks, noted that cohousing is likely to remain a niche affair. To make cohousing more attractive, you need a considerable amount of space and perhaps even dedicated architecture, and that costs money. Most of our housing stock is built to accommodate conventionally "private" living arrangements. My hope is that the voluntary sector, and perhaps an enlightened billionaire, will try to construct miniature intentional communities built along these lines, perhaps for environmental reasons. We see a handful of planned and semi-planned religious communities, but my hope is that this would take root in nonreligious, nonideological "serendipitous" communities as well.

It helps that the US population is growing very fast: if there's room for another 100 Celebration, Floridas, surely there's room for retrofitting scoores of neighborhoods for cohousing. Yes, let's have small private kitchens. But let's also have larger communal kitchens and shared living spaces, etc. This is, as Raines Cohen put it, about increasing our options, not decreasing them.

As for the skeptics, your points are well taken: you are and will likely remain in the vast majority. I do wish housing were priced properly, i.e., consonant with environmental impact. But that's just me.

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