Ann MacInnes is a Member of Glasgow Meeting. This article on the project she has started, Penington Cohousing, appeared in the February 2015 issue of West Scotland Quaker News.

Penington Cohousing is planned to become an intentional community for those over 55 years of age, with homes designed for Lifetime Living, and low energy use. However, if we don’t get enough over 55 year-old members by May 2015, we will widen prospective participation to become a generational venture.

I was a Health Visitor and used to visit the elderly who were housebound. The quality of their lives was poor because of limited social interactions, some who had family in the area, still felt lonely and isolated from all that was happening around them.

I am now retired and live alone, my son and his family live a couple of hundred miles away from me, and may have to move again because of work commitments. Now I have had the opportunity to look at the types of accommodation that are available locally. I already knew that sheltered housing complexes that I had visited did not have good social community, even when they have a communal hall and a warden. Neighbours would not necessarily speak or know who was next door. I knew that I wanted to have a community around me that worked to encourage social interactions but allowed for privacy . I also wanted a home designed for when I was older and frailer, and maybe needed a walking aid, or assistance with daily living. I also was aware that my pension was fixed to Consumer Price index and will therefore decrease in value, just at the time in my life when I needed to be warm in my home. So the future home design needed to incorporate enough insulation and other adaptions that I could be warm at home, without too much cost and to provide a good environmentally friendly building.

Some prospective co-housers

Some prospective co-housers

When I heard about co-housing, and senior co-housing it answered all my priorities, but there was none near where I lived near Glasgow. I then joined others from Glasgow Quaker Meeting who were trying to get such housing built. The original idea was for it to be for both rent and for sale, and a company was formed to try and meet this vision. After several years, some possibilities had come and gone. We realised that the organisation and management were too complicated for us to be able to do this alone. We then laid down that company and began Penington Co-Housing as a company Limited by Guarantee.

I like the concept of co-housing two other reasons: firstly, the people in the community do the management and administration and retain the power to run the project as it suits them. Secondly, the relationships within the community are treated as just as important as the running of the buildings. If an internal group cannot work a compromise between members, then an outside mediator can be brought in. Relationship breakdown is treated seriously as part of overall planning and well-being of the community. We hope that Penington Co-Housing would enable us to buy homes in a new construction which would be built to meet our goals.

We decided that we wanted good public transport links and to be in Glasgow city area, if it were affordable. We were able to use a member’s contacts with Glasgow City Councillors, to meet their very supportive and helpful planning and development staff. They advised using a Housing Association and were able to recommend which ones to approach. Southside HA, which is a small housing association and a charity, was one that was selected. It has been very supportive and offered us part of a site they are redeveloping in Pollockshields, on the edge of Maxwell Park, which is Britain’s largest garden city.

The pressure is now on to find people who would like to join us, because Southside HA need to put in the final planning application for this part of the site by February 2016. If we miss this part of the development, we may be able to be in the third development phrase but the shape of this third phrase site is much more restricted.

I would describe myself as a practical person who is aware that what is on offer as housing for seniors does not give seniors social community, a good standard of build to provide low heating bills, or use designs which enable people to stay in their homes when they experience limitations or disabilities. I don’t want to have to leave my home because I can’t access the toilet, or get washed, or manage stairs. I don’t want to be isolated and lonely; I know that would make me unhappy. In the past older people have felt that once they retired they just had to make the best of whatever housing they could get. But I feel fortunate that I have had the support of others who also feel they want to have housing that meets their future needs. We are a very fortunate generation; if you own property it has increased in value giving you a financial boost for your retirement.

I was diagnosed with Dyslexia in my thirties. At my assessment I discovered that I was using my abilities to the full. Part of learning how to live with Dyslexia has been the ability, as far as I am able, to say what I can’t do, so that I don’t set myself up for being responsible for an error. This awareness of how a disability makes me different from others has heightened my awareness of how those who are “different” in some way, face a challenging life. This developed in me a powerful determination that equality matters, regardless of what the difference is between people. When I found Quakers it was both the spontaneity of Meeting for Worship, and the commitment to the Testimonies, that made me feel I could be part of this community.

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