The Sunday Magazine·The Sunday Edition

B.C. seniors build a new way to age in place

Karin Wells brings us the story of a joyful social experiment. A school bus driver, a mountain guide, a teacher, a hard-living old DJ, a bunch of nurses, an anthropologist have formed their own community. They are strangers turned neighbours — prepared to live together and look after each other until the end of their days. It's called co-housing.
The entrance to the common area at Harbourside. (Margaret Critchlow)

You hear it all the time, a group of women, sometimes men, in their fifties or sixties, saying, "I think we should all buy a place and live together when we get old." People nod in agreement and they bask in the lovely dream.

The dream rarely comes true. But in Sooke BC, population 11,000 - 45 minutes west of Victoria, it did. 

It started with a meeting in 2010. Five years and twelve million dollars later, 44 people, from their late 40s to their 90s, moved into Harbourside Seniors Co-housing last winter.

Among them, a retired school bus driver, a mountain guide, a teacher, a hard-living old American DJ, a bunch of nurses, a biochemist-turned-potter, and — vital to any social experiment — an anthropologist.

Five years ago they didn't know each other. Now, they are a tribe - neighbours prepared to live together and look after each other, with any luck, till the end of their days.

Karin Wells spent a weekend with them, as decisions were made and the buildings went up. 

Her documentary is called "My Last Big Adventure," and it originally aired on the Sunday Edition last November, as the Harboursiders-to-be were getting ready to move in.

Karin Wells went back to Harbourside a few weeks ago. 

Everyone moved in over the winter, the wrinkles were ironed out and Karin reports, the view remained magnificent. Harbourside will celebrate its completion as the first seniors co-housing project in B.C. at the end of the month.

And a final note. The waiting list for Harbourside has jumped from 18 a year 250!

Click the button above to hear "My Last Big Adventure."


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