Last weekend I was fortunate to take a course on Aging Well in Community, sponsored by Harbourside Senior Cohousing in Sooke, B.C.
What made it special was not only the setting - the beautiful campus of Royal Roads University, with its exquisite gardens and wild peacocks strutting the grounds - but the people.
They ranged in age from their 50s to their 80's, and although they came from different backgrounds and occupations, everything from a retired RCMP officer to an astrologer, they fit the classic cohousing personality profile.
They were well-travelled, adventurous, constantly seeking out new experiences and challenges - what we at Pacific Gardens would call BURPIES (as distinguished from Yuppies) - bright, under-employed real people.
The purpose of the course was to get us out of denial about aging, and into planning for a positive future by getting real about getting old, and ensuring that we will be able to thrive and flourish during our senior years.
The best way to do that, we learned, was by staying healthy through community. Social isolation is as bad for your health as smoking, and being involved in shared activities was the key to a happy, healthy old age.
Living in cohousing, I had observed the positive effects of community life on our elderberries, as my sister cohouser Roz has dubbed us, with improvements in both physical and mental health for the elders amongst us since they moved here.
Although the course was put on by members of Harbourside Cohousing, they did not say cohousing was the only option, but talked about such actions as retrofitting your house to stay at home, or moving in with children.
Another possibility being investigated by one group of people who attended was building an environmentally-sustainable house for themselves and their friends to live in as they aged.
No-one was keen to live in a gated condominium community, or a seniors' home. We are from the baby boom generation, rather accustomed to making our own choices about how we want to live - and transforming society as we do it!
If all the zoning approvals go through and it gets built, Harbourside Senior Cohousing will be the first of its kind in B.C. and only the second in Canada, leading the way to a new form of aging in place for us active elderberries!