May 25 saw the official opening by Theresa Villiers of New Ground Cohousing, the new home of the OWCH (Older Women’s Cohousing) group in High Barnet. This is the first senior cohousing community in the UK and its members planned this development over many years.
26 women, aged 50-87, the Older Women’s Cohousing group, are the proud occupants of a block of 25 newly built flats in Union Street, High Barnet. Together they form a self-managing community, based on the shared values of neighbourliness and mutual support. A mix of homeowners and social renters, they want to act as a demonstration project to encourage other older people to plan their later lives and develop similar initiatives.
Having lived mostly alone all over London and beyond, these independent minded women met regularly to develop their own mini-neighbourhood in High Barnet, design their building and plan their future together. Some OWCH members are still working and others have long retired – many from the public sector. Aware that advancing old age can mean increased frailty and possible isolation and loneliness, they joined forces to plan ahead and to stay in charge of their own lives.
In the short time since they moved in, the women have established a lively mix of sociability and shared activity plus clear boundaries for personal space and a private life. They intend to look out for each other and share resources as well as reach out to their locality. One of their earliest actions was to invite the whole street in for coffee to see the building that had been under construction, causing inconvenience for a considerable time. They are increasingly well known as the pioneers of the country’s first ever senior cohousing community, establishing here what has been a feature of Dutch and Scandinavian life for decades.
Patrick Devlin, Partner at Pollard Thomas Edwards said “It has been inspiring to work with a group of women of such focus and enthusiasm, and to see how beautifully they are inhabiting their homes. The project has also demonstrated that working with a cohousing client and the collaborative design process that we undertook together need not add time or cost to the development. New Ground should be a strong encouragement to other committed and organised groups to realise their own dream projects.”
Claire Anderson, Deputy Director at Hanover Housing Association said “We are delighted to have been part of this ground-breaking development with OWCH. It’s been quite a journey and it represents the culmination of a true partnership. These beautiful new homes are testimony to the enduring energy and tenacity of the women of OWCH and we wish them every happiness in the future.”
Zaiba Qureshi, Chief Executive at Housing for Women said “We are very proud to be a longstanding partner in the delivery of this innovative housing scheme for older women and delighted that our tenants have been embraced by the OWCH community. These homes represent the fantastic achievement of years of hard work, resilience and determination of both past and current members. We wish all of the women all the very best and hope that New Ground and OWCH goes from strength to strength.”