Aging Out Together

Janet and Gil Gasparini were part of the group of 4 couples that initiated a senior cohousing project in Sudbury.

We have been friends for over 30 years and have talked about cohousing for a very long time – starting when our children were young and realizing that many things about family life would be easier with closer proximity to each other.  As we aged and started to experience the aging out of our parents, we realized that we wanted a different environment for ourselves.

In our early 30’s we were introduced to a group of friends through an experience that was based in a community building model.  The lessons we learned about community and being really committed to one and another have stuck with us for over 30 years.  We have lived through many incredibly happy and some very sad experiences together and the support and love that we have benefitted from has confirmed for us that it is possible to create a sustainable model of living in a very connected way. We see these connections as being the mechanism that will ensure we age out in a safe, caring environment that will support us to the end of our lives.

We have done a lot of research on cohousing including a visit to Vancouver Island in 2019 where we attended a workshop designed to determine if cohousing was for us. Research now shows that loneliness and isolation are more detrimental to your health as you age than smoking or poor diet.  While we likely won’t start to smoke and will continue to eat well, we will have the perfect antidote to the new “quiet killers!” Society has evolved to the point where individuals are encouraged to manage on their own.  Your own family unit might be the extent of your close relationships.  Learning to let others in at a deeper level, going further than polite banter – actually coming to care about others and let others care about you is important.

Given our early experience with building community, we actually look forward to expanding that circle. We are now retired and this felt like a natural progression from our work. We enjoyed the stimulation of working on the project in retirement and meeting new people in the process.

“It’s About Having An Open Mind”

Stan and Pauline joined Silver Birth Village right from the get go. They wanted to find an ageing out solution that involved being around friends who look out for one another.

Stan and I have been part of the Silver Birch Village cohousing group from the very first information session almost 2 years ago. 

As a group, we met for a monthly potluck meal for the first 3 months before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic followed by virtual meetings once or twice a month depending on developments.  

We have and still are enjoying getting to know one another on a deeper level as well as sharing honest opinions without judgment.  

The first time we heard of the cohousing concept, we were very much attracted to the INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY concept and what it represented.  For us, that seemed to be a good lifestyle option after the unpleasant and painful experience Stan’s mom went through after she suffered a bad fall where she broke her arm and was consequently told by her care provider that she would no longer be able to live on her own for health reasons.

She was forced to sell her house in the little town of Larder Lake where she had lived for the past 45 years and  move in with us.  We loved having her close to us and although we did our best to make her feel at home, she missed her friends, her little house and she felt lonely and isolated as Stan and I were still working at the time and unable to keep her company. 

She was with us for 8 months then she moved into her own little apartment in an elderly assisted living building, although we did our best to visit her often, she did not adapt well to her new lifestyle.  She felt isolated in a strange place and as a timid 81 years old, did not make new friends easily and her health deteriorated quickly thereafter.

That unpleasant experience forced us to start asking ourselves the tough questions and look for better solutions other than being dependent on our children when we get to the age where we need extra support.

So, for us the concept of cohousing with friends, looking out for friends seems the perfect solution for us.  Stan and I are very much aware that being part of such a community requires an open mind, respect for differences of opinions and participation. 

We believe that our values are in line with the requirements needed to co-exist in such a community.

It’s About Building A Community

For the past two year’s SVB members Ann and Chris Frampton have helped grow our group and continue to enjoy the process of building Sudbury’s cohousing community. Read more about why they joined Silver Birch Village.

Many of us are part of great communities. The neighbourhoods we live in, the groups we belong to and encourage others to join, are all part of our community.

Building community is not a new concept. Lots of people are building community every day whether at work or at play. We are building a community at Silver Birch Village – a Cohousing Community for older folks like ourselves. 

We never really thought about being “older folks” but now that we are in our mid 60’s we are those people. How did we get here so fast? Will the next 10 to 20 years go as quickly where we will find ourselves in our 70 and 80’s? 

Our parents ended up in nursing homes and they were not happy about it all. They also passed without their loved ones with them. The physical care that they received was adequate but the social and emotional care was just not there. 

They did not make new friends and relied on family, most of whom were sandwiched between growing children, working fulltime and caring for aging parents. We were sometimes overwhelmed and experienced feelings of doubt and guilt about not being able to provide more. We have thought a lot about our parents’ journey and we want to plan now for what our story will be and not leave it up to our children to decide for us.  

For the past two years,  we became very involved in the Silver Birch Village cohousing project. After attending a “Is Cohousing for you?”  workshop and visiting a number of cohousing complexes on the west coast where the concept is already very popular. 

Being part of growing a community starting from the ground up, has been interesting and fun. Downsizing our living space and planning for what we vision for our next stage in life has been exciting for us and provides a sense of safety and security. This project has been the right fit for us in our retirement and we are really enjoying the process. There is nothing more gratifying than working with an energetic group of likeminded people with a shared vision of moving forward and getting the job done. 

Our group is currently 13 interested households who meet regularly to plan and make decisions on a multitude of things that go into creating a cohousing community. One of the many things that we like about the community is the decision-making process our community uses. 

Consensus Decision Making is one of the many concepts that we have trained and learned about as members which works very well in getting us to where we need to be. The process encourages all voices to be heard as opposed to only the loudest ones, with lots of opportunity for discussion. It does take some work and preparation on the part of the members, but when the group is as committed to making things work as we are, it is easy.

If you are interested in learning more about an aging strategy that includes co-caring of your neighbours, that will combat loneliness, where your voice will be heard and where you will make new friends who do fun things, then check out our website at

A report on the future of long term care in Ontario

The province’s fiscal watchdog has issued a report regarding the future of long term care in Ontario.

After reading this report you may be looking alternative housing for your senior years. Silver Birch Village, a Senior Cohousing community in Sudbury may be what you are looking for.

long-term care

Getting older : a time for difficult questions

In some ways, watching someone you love grow old is a difficult experience.  However, it can also be an opportunity to draw upon their wisdom and learn from their journey and the choices they have made. 

I grew up in a typical French-Canadian family.  My parents fulfilled the traditional roles of that time, my father was the bread winner who worked hard at many jobs at the same time to provide for his family.  My mother worked just as hard keeping house, gardening, preserving food from that garden, sewing our clothes, and providing a loving home for her 7 children. 

As my parents grew older, they came to depend more and more on their children.  My father owned enough land that he was able to have some of his children build homes nearby.  My brothers and sisters are close enough to help with the garden, bring over a meal when necessary. Their proximity makes it easier to drop in and provide those important social connections.  Now that my mother is alone, this physical proximity has become even more important.  I have a brother who is mentally handicapped and still living at home with my elderly mother.  The love and support of my brothers and sisters who are physically close by has allowed them both to continue living at home and be independent.  The emotional currency that my mother invested for all those years has paid off.  She is still retaining her independence, physically active daily and emotionally connected to a community. 

I look at this positive model and realize that my situation is different.  I have three children not seven.  All three of my children have grown into happy and successful lives which I am extremely proud of.  The downside to this is that their lives are not in Sudbury.  As we get older, we will inevitably require support.  Do we pull up roots and begin a new life closer to our children or do we change our living circumstances so that we will have those supports as we grow older? 

Many of us are pondering these questions.  The book “From Age-ing to Sage-ing” by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi explores extended longevity and the call for new models of aging.  A model that challenges personal diminishment and disengagement from life as a given as we grow older.  This challenges us to “transform our conventional aging script and make our journey more triumphant”.  (page 13)

The cohousing movement gives us the opportunity to do just that.  To rewrite the old script where services are provided for a fee instead of providing for ourselves and where we are isolated and cut off from our community. To write a script where I age out at Silver Birch Village where the atmosphere will foster engaging in a community, physical activity and retaining my independence for as long as possible.

If you are interested in learning more about Silver Birch Village, join us for a 1 hour information session on June 2nd at 11:00 am or 7:00 pm, by contacting   

The Science Behind Cohousing

Our blogs to date have looked at the emotional and psychological benefits of cohousing.  These intangibles are very important aspects of daily life.  In this blog, we will explore some of the tangible benefits of living at Silver Birch Village.  What are the links between science and cohousing?  There are many. 

In 1938 Harvard University undertook a study whose goal was to delve into the factors that contribute to happiness as we age.  This 75 year study followed 268 male graduates from Harvard and 456 men from lower income socio economic groups.  The findings of this study are based on brain scans, blood samples and self-reported surveys. 

The study concluded that the quality of our relationships as we age is one of the determining factors of good health.  How does this relate to Silver Birch Village?  The goal of Silver Birch Village is to create a cohousing community.  A community built on relationships. 

“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” said Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Taking care of your body is important but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”

It is a known scientific fact that proper nutrition is important in maintaining good health.  How will cohousing affect your nutrition as you age? The community will come together from some common meals.  Some senior cohousing groups have a soup freezer where people can help themselves when needed.  When your neighbor is there to pick up a few groceries there is better chance of eating a healthy meal rather than making do with tea and toast.    

Scientific research has shown that exercise is another important determinant of good physical and mental health. As we age, we are more likely to continue physical activity if we are surrounded by others who are choosing to be active. For example, you are more likely to continue walking daily if your neighbors are heading out every day and you can easily join them. 

And finally, there is the science of economics.  Sharing resources and dividing tasks within a group makes economic sense.  Owning your own home rather than renting or living in a retirement residence is a wise financial choice.    

Silver Birch Village senior cohousing just makes good sense when you look at the facts and figures as well as the warm fuzzies.

If you are interested in finding our more, contact Anne at to register for a one hour Introduction to Cohousing Workshop.

Date :  Wednesday, June 2nd

Times :  11:00 am with Janet and Carmen

                7:00 pm with Peter and Ann

A day in the life of Cohousing

Charles Durette and Katie McCammant, architects who studied in Denmark are largely responsible for the proliferation of Cohousing in North America.  As a small group of friends we used Charles’ book on Seniors Cohousing to launch Silver Birch Village.  This video with the folks from Wolf Creek Lodge will give you a great view of what living at Silver Birch Village will be like.

Why I chose cohousing

a personal reflection by Debbie, a member of Silver Birch Village

It was hard to watch my parents age.  When my Mom and Dad were younger they had a large circle of friends who got together often.  As my parents aged, they found their house was too big and too much work for them.  They made the decision to sell that house and move into an apartment across town.  When they moved from their long-term neighbourhood, they didn’t see their friends as often.  As they grew older, they started seeing their friends even less.  It didn’t help that my Dad no longer liked night driving.  

When my Dad got sick a number of years later, he didn’t want my Mom to be left alone in the apartment so they put their names on a waiting list for a retirement home.  Unfortunately, the list was long and my Dad passed away before they were able to make that move. Without my Dad, my Mom was incredibly lonely in that apartment.  All of her children worked full time, her friends and family were scattered around the city and my Mom no longer drove.  

When her name finally made it to the top of the waiting list for the retirement home, the move was difficult and intimidating.  She had to leave all of the shared memories that she and my Dad had made in that apartment and move to a new home on her own.   It took some time to settle in, but to my amazement my Mom started to thrive again.  She once again had people around her.  She joined art classes, exercise groups and Friday night cribbage.  She began to smile again.

Having many people around is a real benefit of a retirement home, but there are also a few drawbacks.  Most retirement home apartments have a microwave and mini fridge but no stove, so my mom can no longer cook for herself.  Meals are served at specific times, not necessarily when she feels like eating.  And of course there is the cost – upwards of $46,000 annually for her one bedroom apartment.

I admire my parents’ foresight in planning their future.  They knew that changes would be needed at various stages in their lives, and they addressed those changes as best they could with the options that were available at that time.  

But being a part of my Mom and Dad’s experience caused me to reflect on what I want my senior years to look like.  My husband and I want our aging process to look different than my parent’s, and we are able to do that because of cohousing.

It seems that all too often, the current cycle of aging involves these steps:

  1. living in our home until a sudden health crisis occurs or we are no longer able to manage the workload of maintaining a large single family home
  2. moving to an apartment that is easier to maintain
  3. moving to a retirement home when living independently in an apartment becomes too difficult
  4. moving from there to Long Term Care if medical needs dictate

I wanted to avoid the pitfall of having to make housing decisions under pressure or in times of crisis, and then finding few alternatives available.  I feel that by moving into a cohousing environment, my husband and I will be able to remain there indefinitely,  unless we need some type of specialized care.  Cohousing will replace the need to move to a retirement home.

Because we are going to be part of an intentional community we will already be living among friends and good neighbours who know us.  Of course, we will maintain our relationships with friends and family outside of that community, but we will not have to worry about night driving for social connections, since we will have community built in.  When we eventually lose a partner, the surviving partner will have a caring group of people around them to help with the grief and loneliness.

I feel that moving to cohousing now while we are in our 60s and still fairly young is smart planning.  Relationships take time to build.  Cohousing is not only about aging in place – it is about living in a social, nurturing environment.  It is for people of all ages. I want to be part of a community that rallies around one another when needed; but I am really looking forward to having great fun with the group of wonderful friends and neighbours  in Silver Birch Village 

How will we meet the home care and health care needs of residents of Silver Birch Village?

Silver Birch Village is a senior cohousing development where the intent is to age out together.  Many people ask: “what happens when everybody gets old at the same time and has needs to be met?” There are three variables that come into play. 

The first variable is co-care.  The word care immediately suggests health care, professionals who offer a spectrum of services from personal care to surgeries.  This is not co-care.  Co-care is an intentional process that develops as relationships develop.  The people at Silver Birch Village will all be of different ages and at various stages of the aging process.  As we grow old together, we offer to water a neighbor’s plants, check on their home when they are away or pick up a prescription.  We share meals on a regular basis and get to know each other.  We commit to one another and the relationship grows.  If you know that your neighbor has recently had surgery, you check-in to see if they need anything, you bring over a meal so they can get proper nutrition and recover promptly.  We won’t all age in the same way or at the degree and will have various abilities and talents that we will share. 

The second variable comes into play once those needs go beyond what we can do for each other. We would find professionals to fulfill those needs as we would if we were living in an apartment or a single-family dwelling.  Outside caregivers come into your home just as they would in the community.  If needed, as a group, we could pool our resources and hire a caregiver. 

The third variable comes into play in when planning Silver Birch Village. Accessibility and universal design will be incorporated into each unit so that as we require mobility aids, we can still access bathrooms and other areas in our homes. 

Certainly, there will be some people whose needs will necessitate a move to long term care.  However, living in an active and connected cohousing community will promote healthy aging. This will help us avoid the costly retirement home option.  At Silver Birch Village our community will face the realities of growing older and aging in place together.

Is there an ideal time to move to Silver Birch Village ?

Selective Focus Photography Pink and White Petaled Flowers

This is a very difficult question to answer and depends very much on the individual. For many people, watching their parents age out leads them to question themselves about how they want to live out their senior years. In many cases, our parents have waited too long to make this choice for themselves and are left with few options. 
Often, the children become the parents and are forced to make very important choices for their parents. Living in their own homes becomes unsustainable and there is the heart-breaking process of finding suitable living arrangements. If we leave these choices too late then they are often made for us. 
Silver Birch Village participants are active individuals who recognize that by sharing responsibilities rather than giving them up they will retain their independence longer.  We often don’t have the energy necessary to create this environment in our older senior years. 
Silver Birch Village is based on reciprocity: giving and receiving support from our neighbours. If you move in at a stage where you are unable to give as well as receive, you’ve waited too long. It takes time to build the relationships that bring about the give and take we will need as we get older. The following quote from a cohousing resident sums it up nicely: “You will get the most out of senior cohousing by joining in your fifties and sixties. I have an eighty-two-year-old friend who says he’s not ready for this yet, and unfortunately, he’s missed out on years of neighborly companionship. This is not where you go to end your life; it’s where you go to live. Physically, it’s a lot easier to downsize and move when you’re younger instead of waiting for a medical crisis and realizing you’re left with unappealing options. “State of the Art Cohousing by Alexandria Levitt and Charles Durrett (page 118)