Five years ago, Jayne Nelson watched her 94 year-old mother die. ‘She refused to leave home and she complained of loneliness all the time. It was so painful to watch. She somehow felt my sister and I should be able to sort it out, although neither of us lived nearby. Knowing what I’d felt about trying to help her, and that nothing could decrease her unhappiness, I never wanted my children to experience that.’
Jayne, who is now 72, was divorced in the 1970s and brought up three children as a single parent. ‘I’ve always been aware that women usually end up living on their own and I don’t want to end up as a solitary person in an old people’s home. I’ve been a member of women’s groups and had a lot of women friends and I’ve felt for a long time that women need to find a way of living together in old age.’
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.