Perhaps because I grew up in a standard Massachusetts suburb, I have a biased view of ecovillages. Growing up, I didn’t know anything about ecovillages, and thus did not know any adults who had chosen to live in that type of community. Even now, the only people I know who live in ecovillages are twenty and thirty-something year olds I know on a level quite different from people in my parent’s generation. Naturally, I always imagined ecovillages to be teeming with young, bright minds, and more or less bereft of older residents.
In March 2013 however, Phyllis Korkii wrote an article in the New York Times that strongly refutes my assumption. In fact, she discusses the growing abundance of elderly individuals in ecovillages. After examining this as an option for the elderly, it actually makes a lot of sense. Intentional living communities offer an alternative to nursing homes where residents can continue to experience multi-generational living. According to Korkii, “moving to cohousing is a way to avoid the isolation and depression that older people can face when they live alone”, therefore adding social and health benefits to the arrangement. Moreover, residents in villages continue to have a large voice in their community that may not be as present had they chosen to live home alone, or in a retirement home.
Many ecovillages are embracing these older residents into their communities, like Ecovillage at Ithaca in New York. This community has an age range of over eighty years! According to Mr. Fallon, an ecovillage resident in Prescott AZ, this is not uncommon. What he enjoys about his multi-generational community is that “there are structured opportunities to get together and share what’s going on in your life”. Yarrow Ecovillage in Canada even has a subset, called “Elderberry” that has been created with the intent of making life in the village accessible and age-friendly for older folks.
Though the ecovillage setting –always bustling- isn’t for the weary, I can only predict that the number of elderly residents in ecovillages will be on the rise over the next few decades. Those who pioneered the modern environmental movement are now at or approaching old age, and it isn’t an unlikely assumption that these folk desire a place where they can express their values actively.
Under Robert Gilman’s famous definition of an “ecovillage”, he has most recently included that their must be “multiple centers of initiative”. An appropriate, inclusive, and active home for older residents could definitely be one of these initiatives, and so far it seems as though communities are stepping up to the challenge to incorporate this demographic. I am amazed by the ability of these villages to meaningfully increase their age-diversity. Keeping this in mind, I am excited and confident that intentional living will grow in size as well as multiplicity.
(2013). Retrieved from Ecovillage at Ithaca website: http://ecovillageithaca.org
(n.d.). Aging well in community. Retrieved from Elderberry website: http://elderberrycohousing.ca
Korkii, P. (2013, March 12). In retiree housing, talking about multigenerations. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/business/retirementspecial/retirees-choose-intergenerational-cohousing.html?_r=0