Cohousing in a Pandemic???

Cohousing during a pandemic? You must be crazy! Cohousing is all about people living in close proximity to each other, sharing meals as well as sharing common spaces. Right? Then why on earth would I want to live in cohousing during a pandemic?

It is worth remembering the many benefits of living in cohousing. Cohousing communities are self-managed. They don't depend heavily on staff coming in from outside the community for managing day to day activities. Cohousers are smart and innovative people who care about each other, and who are very capable of figuring out many successful ways of managing life in a pandemic.

For starters, there is always the option of privacy vs company. If you choose to be alone, you can be alone. If you want company, it can be safely found just outside your door. A warm greeting from a passing neighbour, or several brief conversations during the day, while remaining 2m apart, can have a huge impact on mood, anxiety levels, and depression. We all know that there can be far too much 'aloneness' during a pandemic. In cohousing, even during a pandemic, you still have a choice.

People who live in cohousing do so intentionally. They understand what it means to provide support to their neighbours. Whether it is watching for a signal each morning to make sure someone living alone is alright, shopping for those who can't risk being in public places, or offering a mask wearing drive when public transportation is too risky, cohousers are there for each other. During this pandemic, many communities have shared responsibilities for keeping each other safe. Cleaning common spaces frequently, such as stair railings and elevator buttons, has become part of everyone's new normal. Meals in the common house may not have been possible, but community members as individuals or couples, have still cooked for others, serving “take-home” food to those who come by with their own dishes, or delivering meals using pandemic safe practices. Others have chosen to come together, bringing their own food to eat in socially distanced outdoor gatherings. It is easy to improvise when you live close to your neighbours, who are also your friends.

In warmer weather, outdoor entertainment, from drumming circles to small concerts with socially distanced audiences, to singing together but from your own patio or balcony, have lifted the spirits of residents. Morning coffee on a deck, or a casual drink before dinner, has been enjoyed safely. Walks and bike rides ( 2m apart or wearing masks) have still been arranged spontaneously.

Some groups of cohousers have chosen to form their own bubbles, or cohorts.

Small groups of people agree to respect the restrictions of pandemic life together, and in that way are still able to share meals, a visit over coffee, or the pleasure of playing cards and games, just as if they were living as one family.

"It's better to be alone together than by yourself"

Charles Durrett - Nevada City Cohousing

Similarly, young families living in cohousing can choose to team up with another family, so that children can still play within their own“double bubble”. Parents can share the responsibilities of homeschooling, and “take turns” working from home and supervising young ones, within the safety of their own cohort. Such plans are easily implemented when understanding and trusted friends live close together.

Contrast this cohousing pandemic lifestyle with that of hundreds of people of all ages, alone in private homes or apartments, and socially isolated from friends and family members for the past seemingly endless months, with only too much TV for company. This pandemic is the first of its kind we have experienced, and unfortunately, may not be the last. When the next pandemic hits, I know where I want to be. I want to be living “alone together”, in Prairie Rivers Cohousing!

Note: With the situation regarding Covid-19 changing so often before making any plans, please make sure to check with Manitoba Health for current Covid-19 Guidelines, or with the local health agency where you live.

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Winnipeg, Manitoba

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