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Conference Explores Co-Housing Possibilities for Seniors

Andrea Smardon
Retired residents of Wasatch Commons co-housing community in Glendale enjoy a mid-day potluck.

As more baby boomers reach retirement age, interest is building in alternative living situations that provide a sense of community. In Salt Lake City this week is a conference called Aging Better Together. It’s the first gathering of its kind in the country focused on the idea of co-housing for seniors.

A bell rings for a mid-day potluck at Wasatch Commons in Glendale. People are emerging from their houses with bowls of salad, fruit, and savory pastries.  This is a multi-generational co-housing community, but at this time of day, it’s mostly the retirees who show up for lunch in the common space. Lynda Angelastro says they each have their own homes, but there are lots of opportunities to get together.

“Potluck on Sunday - the evening meal, potluck on Wednesday, celebrating people’s birthday with cake and ice cream, just all kinds of things working together out in the yard,” Angelastro says.  At 67-years old, she realized how much she relied on this community when her husband suddenly died after a fall 16 months ago. “Co-housing really came into play because there were so many people to stand by me and support me and help out.”

It wasn’t just that someone was there to shovel her walk in the winter and reach those things her husband had stored up high. “I think the over-riding thing was just the emotional support,” she says.  

Architect and author Charles Durrett brought the concept of co-housing to the US from Denmark, and he published a book called Senior Cohousing: A Community Approach to Independent Living.

“You know, loneliness is for sure one of the most pervasive pathologies that seniors face. The average American senior is watching TV over six hours a day,” Durrett says.  He lives in a multi-generational co-housing community in California. He talks with the seniors there regularly. “When they contrast their life today to when they lived in a single family house, they’re much, much, much more happy.”

The Aging Better Together conference takes place May 20th and 21st at the University of Utah Guest House and Conference Center.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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