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Plans for seniors' cohousing in the making at Yarrow Ecovillage

Michael Hale, along with Corie Robinson (right) and Suzanne Hale, are starting to map out a detailed plan for their own 50+ housing project within the Yarrow Ecovillage called Elderberry Commons.  - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS
Michael Hale, along with Corie Robinson (right) and Suzanne Hale, are starting to map out a detailed plan for their own 50+ housing project within the Yarrow Ecovillage called Elderberry Commons.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

A group of baby boomers and active seniors are mapping out a plan for a 50+ housing community in Chilliwack to be known as Elderberry Commons.

It's a seniors' cohousing project for those aged 50 to 70 who may be seeking a little "peas and quiet" on the Yarrow Ecovillage site.

"We're now in the early stages of planning," says Elderberry spokesperson Yonas Jongkind, who has been involved with project management at the Ecovillage.

Ecovillage member Michael Hale said Elderberry just seems like a completely logical transition.

It will be purpose built housing that specifically seeks to support active aging and healthy seniors' lifestyles.

The existing Groundswell project is multi generational cohousing, and represents the first phase of the Ecovillage, with "a vibrant milieu for young families," said Hale.

Elderberry represents the next phase at the Ecovillage, and the plan is to have it built by 2015 with room for about 17 seniors' units.

Some of the elder Ecovillagers have been mulling over the specialized needs of their golden years.

"Peas and quiet," is how the website describes the atmosphere they're looking to create with Elderberry. The beauty of the pastoral setting is part of the appeal, along with vegetable garden plots for Ecovillage residents, and larger sections available in a community garden.

"The idea idea here is that when you pass the age of 50, you start to begin to think about the last chapters of your life," said Hale.

He and his wife Suzanne now live in Groundswell co-housing at the Ecovillage, and were one of the founding members. As busy retirees, they're also part of a group that's been looking at the potential for housing, health, fitness, and general wellness at Elderberry.

"We have been calling ourselves a group of people who are not quite ready to be seniors. We're 50- and 60-somethings who really want to remain engaged with community and in their lives."

"So many healthy lifestyle elements are already combined at the Ecovillage, like good, healthy food and strong community, so it makes sense to look at the opportunity to continue to live, work and age in place."

All the typical elements of cohousing will be included in Elderberry Commons, like housing forms built to encourage daily interaction with neighbours, as well as shared facilities.

"What I would like to do is walk out my door into a village square one day," said Hale. "I'd walk into a café to read a newspaper and socialize."

It will make a nice addition to what's already there, and Hale can already visualize a typical scene.

"Maybe the kid waiting on me in the café, is someone who I watched grow up. Maybe I'd pop over to the deli for lunch. That's the future I see for me. I don't need as much space."

It's a form of intentional community living, but Elderberry will also meet all the basic requirements for accessibility and adaptable standards for aging in place, Jongkind says.

Several info sessions about the senior cohousing project were held over the summer, with some interested seniors in attendance and offering feedback.

"One thing that some said they're looking for is the possibility of renting," Jongkind says.

"A lot of seniors say they don't want all their savings tied up in their homes."

Next up for any prospective Elderberry residents are a series of planning workshops facilitated by the Ecovillage architect and cohousing expert, Charles Durrett. They'll be tackling the nitty gritty of site planning, the common house and private residences at Elderberry, but there are no dates set yet for the workshops.

Send message to  welcome@elderberrycohousing.ca to find out more about the workshops.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno

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