How cohousing can make us happier (and live longer) | Grace Kim

Loneliness. All of us in this room
will experience loneliness at some point in our lives. Loneliness is not
a function of being alone, but rather, a function
of how socially connected you are to those around you. There could be somebody
in this room right now surrounded by a thousand people experiencing loneliness. And while loneliness
can be attributed to many things, as an architect, I’m going to tell you today
how loneliness can be the result of our built environments — the very homes we choose to live in. Let’s take a look at this house. It’s a nice house. There’s a big yard, picket fence, two-car garage. And the home might be
in a neighborhood like this. And for many people around the globe, this home, this neighborhood — it’s a dream. And yet the danger of achieving this dream is a false sense of connection and an increase in social isolation. I know, I can hear you now, there’s somebody in the room
screaming at me inside their head, “That’s my house,
and that’s my neighborhood, and I know everyone on my block!” To which I would answer, “Terrific!” And I wish there were
more people like you, because I’d wager to guess
there’s more people in the room living in a similar situation that might not know their neighbors. They might recognize them and say hello, but under their breath, they’re asking their spouse, “What was their name again?” so they can ask a question by name
to signify they know them. Social media also contributes
to this false sense of connection. This image is probably all too familiar. You’re standing in the elevator, sitting in a cafe, and you look around, and everyone’s on their phone. You’re not texting or checking Facebook, but everyone else is, and maybe, like me,
you’ve been in a situation where you’ve made eye contact, smiled and said hello, and have that person
yank out their earbuds and say, “I’m sorry, what did you say?” I find this incredibly isolating. The concept I’d like
to share with you today is an antidote to isolation. It’s not a new concept. In fact, it’s an age-old way of living, and it still exists in many
non-European cultures around the world. And about 50 years ago, the Danes decided to make up a new name, and since then, tens of thousands of Danish people
have been living in this connected way. And it’s being pursued
more widely around the globe as people are seeking community. This concept is cohousing. Cohousing is an intentional neighborhood
where people know each other and look after one another. In cohousing, you have your own home, but you also share significant spaces,
both indoors and out. Before I show you
some pictures of cohousing, I’d like to first introduce you
to my friends Sheila and Spencer. When I first met Sheila and Spencer,
they were just entering their 60s, and Spencer was looking ahead
at the end of a long career in elementary education. And he really disliked the idea that he might not have
children in his life upon retirement. They’re now my neighbors. We live in a cohousing community
that I not only designed, but developed and have my architecture practice in. This community is very intentional
about our social interactions. So let me take you on a tour. From the outside, we look like
any other small apartment building. In fact, we look identical
to the one next door, except that we’re bright yellow. Inside, the homes are fairly conventional. We all have living rooms and kitchens, bedrooms and baths, and there are nine of these homes
around a central courtyard. This one’s mine, and this one is Spencer and Sheila’s. The thing that makes this building
uniquely cohousing are not the homes, but rather, what happens here — the social interactions that happen
in and around that central courtyard. When I look across the courtyard, I look forward to see Spencer and Sheila. In fact, every morning,
this is what I see, Spencer waving at me furiously
as we’re making our breakfasts. From our homes, we look down
into the courtyard, and depending on the time of year, we see this: kids and grownups in various combinations playing and hanging out with each other. There’s a lot of giggling and chatter. There’s a lot of hula-hooping. And every now and then,
“Hey, quit hitting me!” or a cry from one of the kids. These are the sounds of our daily lives, and the sounds of social connectedness. At the bottom of the courtyard,
there are a set of double doors, and those lead into the common house. I consider the common house
the secret sauce of cohousing. It’s the secret sauce because it’s the place
where the social interactions and community life begin, and from there, it radiates out
through the rest of the community. Inside our common house,
we have a large dining room to seat all 28 of us and our guests, and we dine together three times a week. In support of those meals,
we have a large kitchen so that we can take turns
cooking for each other in teams of three. So that means, with 17 adults, I lead cook once every six weeks. Two other times, I show up
and help my team with the preparation and cleanup. And all those other nights, I just show up. I have dinner, talk with my neighbors, and I go home, having been fed
a delicious meal by someone who cares
about my vegetarian preferences. Our nine families
have intentionally chosen an alternative way of living. Instead of pursuing the American dream, where we might have been isolated
in our single-family homes, we instead chose cohousing, so that we can increase
our social connections. And that’s how cohousing starts: with a shared intention to live collaboratively. And intention is the single most
important characteristic that differentiates cohousing
from any other housing model. And while intention is difficult to see or even show, I’m an architect, and I can’t help
but show you more pictures. So here are a few examples to illustrate how intention has been expressed in some of the communities I’ve visited. Through the careful
selection of furniture, lighting and acoustic materials
to support eating together; in the careful visual location
and visual access to kids’ play areas around
and inside the common house; in the consideration of scale and distribution of social gathering nodes in and around the community
to support our daily lives, all of these spaces help
contribute to and elevate the sense of communitas in each community. What was that word? “Communitas.” Communitas is a fancy social science way
of saying “spirit of community.” And in visiting
over 80 different communities, my measure of communitas became: How frequently did residents eat together? While it’s completely up to each group how frequently they have common meals, I know some that have eaten together
every single night for the past 40 years. I know others that have an occasional potluck
once or twice a month. And from my observations, I can tell you, those that eat together more frequently, exhibit higher levels of communitas. It turns out, when you eat together, you start planning
more activities together. When you eat together,
you share more things. You start to watch each other’s kids. You lend our your power tools.
You borrow each other’s cars. And despite all this, as my daughter loves to say, everything is not rainbows
and unicorns in cohousing, and I’m not best friends
with every single person in my community. We even have differences and conflicts. But living in cohousing,
we’re intentional about our relationships. We’re motivated
to resolve our differences. We follow up, we check in, we speak our personal truths and, when appropriate, we apologize. Skeptics will say that cohousing
is only interesting or attractive to a very small group of people. And I’ll agree with that. If you look at Western cultures
around the globe, those living in cohousing
are just a fractional percent. But that needs to change, because our very lives depend upon it. In 2015, Brigham Young University
completed a study that showed a significant
increase risk of premature death in those who were living in isolation. The US Surgeon General
has declared isolation to be a public health epidemic. And this epidemic
is not restricted to the US alone. So when I said earlier that cohousing
is an antidote to isolation, what I should have said is that cohousing can save your life. If I was a doctor, I would tell you
to take two aspirin, and call me in the morning. But as an architect, I’m going to suggest
that you take a walk with your neighbor, share a meal together, and call me in 20 years. Thank you. (Applause)

About the author


  1. 2:30 I spotted Richard Branson. Practically the only guy not wearing a lanyard. Only billionaires can get away with that at the TED cult.

  2. Fixing loneliness this way does not actually fix the social problem. Its the same as trying to have an introvert live in the same room as an extrovert and hoping they learn from each other. As long as the initial problem, i.e. the introvert remaining in their own head, stays the same, all that you have done is confined the introvert to a stressful situation they can not escape from. The Introvert must desire community and make the intentional step to be a part of their community in order to come out of their state of loneliness.

    The same goes for anyone who feels lonely and thinks an apartment community like this will fix their situation. You might as well just move to a new community after doing some research. At least that way you will gain some conversation topics along the way. And every opportunity to share a meal together and interact can be novel and not a requirement. Question: why are we considering forced shared meals? Why is no one questioning that?

  3. Just wait until the parasites, sociopaths and freeloaders move in, and drive out everyone else. How all communes fall apart. Gresham's law.

  4. Cohousing works until your neighbor turns out to be a complete wacko… The drama at these places is also unbelievable. I worked at one. We were constantly having to explain to people they needed to mind their own business

  5. Cohousing looks like a nightmare to me. I'd much rather live by myself with neighbors located at least a mile away. I still want some places to socialize, but I want to visit them only when I'm in the mood to do so.

  6. My neighbors are people who do not know their neighbors by name. We have even given our neighbors coffee multiple times as gifts, and it's still "work" trying to get them to say hi to us. We have concluded that they either hate us or want nothing to do with us so we have given up. It's bad energy. I think it is most likely due to the area I live in (Los Angeles). It is also due to attitude, behavior, empathy and kindness. Which I think most people lack. I find most people here to be disingenuous. It's hard to find "real" people nowadays.

  7. Apparently this women doesnt understand that the common folk are slaves. That the ruling elites created suburba as a control mechanism. Force people to live in isolated units. Then they are easier to control.
    Just like a jail.
    We are their livestock!

  8. Actually, this reminds me to the mexican urban model known as "vecindades". These are conglomerates of many houses (and families) attached to each other with a "common ground", usually known as "patio", where all the families interact with each other. The "vecindades" can be composed of many different families or the extended of a "nuclear core". So, in this places brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, brothers and sisters in law, and other families can live together and become friends, or sometimes hate each other.
    For example, I live in Mexico City in a "vecindad" with three families there, one to which I belong and the other two are extended family.

  9. Iv`e lived in shared accommodation many times in the past through necessity, & hated it. All people do in these situations is squabble over every little thing, like whose turn it is do do the washing up, who nicked who`s yogurt out of the fridge, & what to watch on tv. Then there`s people "borrowing" stuff without asking. Living with other people? No thanks!

  10. Today is the 6 year anniversary of our move to co-housing, Creekside on Vancouver Island. Best choice I ever made. I don’t really know everyone nor do I like everyone, but I love the social activities and several people who are very dear to me. I also love the brunches, council & sustainability meetings. House concerts and dozens of other privileges and activities that makes living here so awesome. Our common house is our very own community hall, guest rooms, woodshop, art room, labyrinth, orchards and prolific community gardens! I look forward to growing old here… I am truly among the luckiest on this planet!

  11. Our nearest neighbor is 1 mile away, lovely couple, we speak with them occasionally; when he and his wife pass we’re buying their house so our nearest neighbor will be 1.5 miles away.

  12. This is how humans have lived throughout most of our history. Hunter-gatherer, and mobile band and village societies live like this. To the extent that we have evolved social needs, cohousing seeks to meet them.

  13. I didn't even know I was missing, or needed a sense of 'community,' until I moved to my present location 12 years ago. We're tiny (400+) people in a small coastal village where there's 1 store, and 1 bar/café. Everybody congregates at the café in the evenings to socialize. We share holiday meals, celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, mourn losses, etc. If I'm feeling anti-social or just need alone time, I stay at home until I'm ready to see people again. Nobody intrudes on my space, but they're always there for me. And we're very diverse—different races, religions, sexual orientations—nobody cares as long as you respect them. Now that I'm in a situation where I have to move away (work related), I have anxiety about returning to the cold, anonymous life most people experience. I'm afraid I will never again find that extended family I found by the sea. I know one thing, I never want to live in the suburbs again.

  14. Probably she mispoke, but it sounds like she said "I started measuring how much communitas a commuity had by how often they eat together and found that the more often communities ate together the more sense of communitas they had."

  15. I am trying to establish a co -housing setup at my house in France. Would like to hear from others who are interested.

  16. The lower level is a dining area like a hotel, but each level is like a studio but you live one floor and the building is separated by four divisions and four to five floors with a lower level patio. The way it's constructed.

  17. Go live in India, it's a big co-house altogether, everyone would be your uncle, brother, cousin, sister, sister-in-law, brother-in-law …

  18. Hello 🙂 I believe myself to be somewhat of an introvert as well, but I live in a cohousing solution and I LOVE it!

    I have never had friends over after school because I felt too exhausted from being surrounded by people all day, and every time I have attended some small family birthday for a couple of hours, I used to need the rest of the day as well as the next day to just recover in bed, from having been surrounded by people.

    However I live in a co-housing solution and I LOVE it because it allows me to socialize 10 min over a cup of tea, and then go back to my own room for several hours and come out again to watch a movie in the living room with some of the other people, which is the perfect balance between alone time and social time for me, since I sometimes feel lonely if I live on my own. Also living with other people has made me much better at being together with other people, and I now get energy from being with other people rather than from being alone, which can be quite convenient. Also it can be quite hard to fit people into a busy life, so it is nice too get my social fix during doing the dishes, doing two things at once, rather than trying to do the dishes AND meet up with friends, so I also save a bit of time.

  19. I used to live and work in a hostel and it was something similar to this but on a small and temporary scale; I loved it and miss it everyday

  20. Everyone that's saying this wouldn't work in x place is ignoring the most important part of her video. She explains that this works because people want to do it and do it with the intention of being in the community. Obviously it's not for everyone and she isn't saying everyone should live this way. It's one option that could help people who feel isolated living in a typical suburb.

  21. The same concept exists in Israel for years, named "Kibutz". After debts of billions Now we know the socialism didn't work.

    I enjoy talking to people, but I also enjoy my alone time. But even as I say that, I live in a condo, so technically I see people everyday. There was a point I knew a lot of people in my building but the owners eventually switched out to renters, than new owners after the market crash so I don't really know a lot of people now. SO, I decided to manifest my own group of friends through a social group on Meetup. Still people don't always like to leave their homes, which is why I also started a website that facilitates video group chats about topics such as these, however instead of just typing your answer, you see there face. If you wish to know more about my group visit my website

  23. I agree with the lady on a general level but I am a very private person. I like my time alone and, when alone, I don't like the sounds of life, especially not the screams of children.
    I think this problem could be easily solved by an extemely good insulation between different units and by creating different communal spaces, some of which dedicated to adults only.

  24. Are big corporations buttering us up to live even poorer?

    Like "see, not being able to afford your own home is actually better! We're really doing you a favor."

  25. People are social mammals, we need to be around each other. Wired for touch… business, ideas flow much better in person. Hear a lot of antisocial spiders on here typing negativity they wouldn't dare voice in person, and maybe that's exactly the point. Online from a cul de sac makes me very sad personally. Gotta go talk to a community where everybody knows my name in World 1.0!

  26. What is the form of ownership of those individual units and who owns the common areas ?

    In a situation like this there are so many rules that the community must have and there must be a very high level of regard and respect that you really only want to do this on a very very small scale — as far as I'm concerned they've hit the top of that scale.

    When it's time for somebody to sell what is the approval process How Deeply do you look into the backgrounds a prospective co- habitants?

    On a super micro level what happens at first day when you don't feel like waving back does it result in him calling you visiting you wondering if you're okay?

  27. I'm 51 now, and I'm still living in the same block of flats where I've been living all my life, in the same city where I was brought up…. this "cohousing" thing, we used to experience it when I was a child and all my girl and boyfriends lived next door, or above me, or down my flat, I mean in the same block of flats…. we were in total 18 families neighbouring in the same block, and we used to help each other when needed, we used to meet and talk each other, we used to have a drink sometimes (well, my parents did, actually), but we were connected, cohousing…… Then what is the problem now? Kids grew up and left for different reasons, old neighbours passed away, others moved to live with their families and new people from different countries and cultures came to rent the empty flats, but this is not the "cohousing" I used to have anymore…. we are now disconnected because of new technologies, or personal reasons like the language, or life habits…… and I suppose this is happening everywhere else…. You'll be lucky if you can kindly "connect" with your neighbours next door!!

  28. This is the way of living how my grandparents had lived in a small village before the defacto industrialising the country Yugoslavia from 50's till 70's. The industrialisation led to migration from villages to towns or cities durring that period. Because Yugoslavia was a communist country the way of living in a flat in a town or city in Yugoslavia was something like this. People were more supportive and respecting each other as neighbors. For example I still know barely every of my neighbours in the neighborhood. It is interesting that, that way of life continued till the year 2000's even though Yugoslavia started to break up one decade earlier. With the rising of the TV's and especially the internet the people started to break up this important social relations in the community.
    In my opinion today in North Macedonia, after Yugoslavia most of people are still more respecting the immportance of social life rather than building the career. The young people that choose to have wealthier life migrate to the more developed countries on the west and those who are more social decide to live in small towns or cities in North Macedonia (former Republic of Macedonia).
    Anyway this looks nothing new to me, this is really interesting idea. 🙂

  29. Cons to value!
    Cheating (broken families)(stds)
    Voilence (domestic or beyond)
    Child Abuse (of any kind)
    Opinions (the real killer)

  30. The Fellowship for Intentional Communities promotes cohousing as community.
    But, they'll also tell how many don't make it. Then things that help others to have happy places where everyone gets along well.
    Jesus did this long ago, but didn't go into more detail.
    But like some nuns live happily together. Some!
    Respect is very important. Courtesy, etc.
    It's also said to be good with those who're friends. Not associates, but friends, where ideas are shared, values shared, etc.

  31. Awful idea, someone takes your stuff from the fridge, someone uses the shower longer than they should, the guy who should clean don't do it, etc… yeah, is always a nightmare.

  32. I guess for single people it's good. Ut not if you have wife and kids. Then you already are in choosing. Sharing a kitchen is hard when you have too many people using it, with different scheduals.

  33. libraries, parks, churches, schools and many other places offer this but also offers the option to not interact when you dont want to. if this is really what the masses wanted then this is how we would be living already.

  34. Go back to building row houses. These houses had the right balance between privacy and interaction with your neighbors. Architects these days keep reinventing the wheel but yet all they ever come up with is square wheels.

  35. cohousing would be a great solution to the housing crisis if all the trendy cohousing communities didn't cost as much or more than a solo apartment, in defiance of all logic. US cities used to be full of rooming houses/boarding houses on this basic model, as low budget options for single working folks.

  36. IOW, be sad because I telling you how to and why. This total bull, it's a globalist fallacy. They try to convience people they'll be happier if they just take our advice. One rich guy in every house to feed the others and keep them warm. This lady is a Globalist nut.

  37. I really can't believe how many people here in the comments can't process basic information without applying all of their biases. No, you don't share your house with anyone, you just happen to have shared spaces in addition to your apartment, no it's not communist (Americans seem to love to label everything "communist) and this is not mandatory so if you don't like it don't live in such a place! It isn't really for me but I get how it could be beneficial to some people.

  38. This concept doesn't appeal to me at all. In every apartment I've lived in I've had at least one self-destructive neighbor who is rude and selfish. I just don't want to break bread with them. It's hard to say from one 10 minute video but I think this lady is living in a magic bubble full of nice, well-adjusted people. That's not the real world.
    I've never found Post-Modern/ Minimalist living boxes very desirable either.

  39. Great concept if you are with people you have clicked with.
    I would have liked more in-depth detail of design, costs etc.
    The rooftop garden looked great …but again no details.

  40. Another way of warehousing people who don't have the means to afford greater privacy under the auspices of community.

  41. Or if you are my wife and myself, you don't know any of your neighbors because you never see them out of their houses. (Sigh) I live in a good neighborhood, near a school, but I don't know anyone on my block.

  42. Always intended living this way but do not know another soul whom have this vision. I keep reaching out to others , e'g neibours etc , setting up socials to get people together and eating together but never any takers to these ideas . Every one wants to just live in their little bubbles even my closest friends prefer to just live as a couple than part of a community like this so it is not for trying that this is not a reality at the moment and yes I am exxxtermly lonely as most of the planet are , they just don't always aknowledge it

  43. I DO NOT WISH TO BE "furiously waved at" while I'm "making my breakfast" IN MY OWN KITCHEN. Is she kidding?

  44. I definitely don't want anyone to wave a hand at me every morning through my windows. I don't want to feel as if I lived behind glass walls exposed to everyone's eyes. And I don't really care who my neighbours are as long as they do not make any noise or flood my flat. Neither do I want to see what is happening in my neighbour's flat. This co-housing idea looks quite utopian and is more likely to turn into a dystopia with neighbours spying and spreading rumour.

  45. For this to work, you all need to be like-minded, have similar lifestyle preferences, and be of similar economic background. Basically a super-specific gated community. That's a recipe for close-mindedness and a bubble mentality, not exactly great for society…

  46. Facbook created modern loneliness, now Starcity buys up low income housing to jack up prices and sell prison community housing for 4 times what it used to cost under the guise of making people more open and connected like Facebook's mission statement back in 2010.

  47. If every neighbors are a saint/civilize people, yea that will work. Specially in California where there are a lot of different culture. Some are dirty, but for them it is ok and clean, but for other it is not. For some this is loud music and noise, but for others it is nice music at normal volume… for some having loud music until 3 am every single weekend is totally ok, but for others that have to wake up at 5 am for work is a nightmare…

  48. Considering Cohousing on Facebook.

    Not your standard information but an essential read for anyone considering joining or already a member. This looks behind the usual claims about cohousing, based on detailed research and years of personal experience. Questions you should ask, and analysis of patterns across many communities. Regular updates. Check it out.

    “A rich resource .. to help individuals considering joining a co-housing community or already a member…full of great wisdom and experiences.”

  49. All this video I wanted to take away hair from her face. And she herself was not comfortable with it.

  50. I personally have lived in a co-housing setting (in bandung, indonesia) and I must say it was probably one of the greatest experiences in my life! I must say though it's only nice bc they were all old retired couples so they don't cause a lot of troubles and noises. with the right group of people, I can say it is a really good way of living.

  51. Is this available to those who live below the poverty level, or only for those who earn 400,000.00 plus a year like windsong?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *