Don’t know your neighbours? No one to rely on? Find the area outside your front door forbidding? Maybe you need cohousing.
Two of the world’s leading architects of cohousing were at Nesta yesterday as part of its Age Unlimited programme, to talk about a movement that began in Denmark, has spread to the US, and is now exciting a lot of interest in Britain. Charles Durrett and Kathryn McCamant – Chuck and Katy to their friends – talked about the particular benefits to older people of living in communities of 20-30 households, in which cars are kept to the periphery, in homes that residents have designed and that share some communal facilities.
In a large kitchen, 20 women are ranged around two large tables, making chapattis. Their average age is in the mid 70s and they come here every day. Anyone can turn up and the women will feed them. They provide lunch for hundreds, making enough food to ensure that anyone who comes can be fed at any hour of the day or night.
I visited them this week at the Sikh temple in Handsworth, Birmingham, the Gurudwara Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, which was part of the inspiration for Agebomb. A few months ago I arrived at the Gurudwara to research a newspaper article about the possibility that the community might set up its own school. It was an interesting story, but what I was mainly struck by was the extent to which old people are essential to the Gurudwara’s success.