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Living in a community, not a nursing home

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
August 30, 2012

It’s the dreaded decision for everyone as their parents age…move them into a nursing home, or hold out as long as possible, and try to form a support network around them? But it doesn’t have to be so clear cut. Stillwater will soon be home to co-housing, as it starts to gain popularity . I visited the site to first figure out what exactly co-housing is, and how it works…

It’s like college for seniors…

“Why can Stillwater pull this off?

“Well, Stillwater, as you’re well aware, is a college town. College towns are great places to be. My community is in Stillwater.”

Okay, so you won’t see anyone scurrying around with a keg, or heading off to class, but the idea is there.

A batch of houses are neatly arranged around a common, kind of student union building on the tree lined property off North Husband Street in Stillwater. The high school is just to the south, Boomer Lake to the north. Up at the common house, drilling holes into the wraparound porch.

While 25 steps away, they’re cutting the cement porches. So Oakcreek Cohousing Community is a work in progress.

In the shell of one of the houses, it becomes an echo chamber…

“We are supportive of each other, we’re going to hopefully skip that assisted living care because we can be helpful to each other and support each other as best we can here.”

“I do see it as a very tight knit community. The neat thing about co-housing is that we’ve been drawn to it because we share the same values.”

“Each of us has used our talent to build this, and we never could have done it just by ourselves.”

That’s the idea behind Oakcreek, from three different people: Pat Tweedie, Kay Stewart, and Donna Schwartz. Instead of a collection of caretakers, why can’t these residents rely on each other? The houses are clustered next to each other, and they all park their cars in the same garage in a corner of the property.

“Well I suppose the meals, and the socialization that goes along with those meals.

“Bring people together?

“Right, right you’ve got it right there. Come join us.”

And there’s Steve Tweedie, Pat’s husband. Each house will have just enough space, and that’s where the large common house comes in. Guest bedrooms for visiting family and friends, and the kitchen and dining room. And a big kitchen, the type where a group of 10-15 could gather for dinner.  A couple weeks ago, they were just putting in the finishing touches.

_________________________________________________________

It took more than a little finesse to get to this point. Both by the parents and their kids, who for the most part are endorsing the plan…

“How many people here, [said] am I actually going to do this?”

“1, 2, 3, pretty much everybody?”

For Sidney Ewing, it wasn’t so much a leap, but a fall. One of his neighbors couldn’t get help after going down. And then he heard another friend had since gone into an assisted care facility…

“This community will make it possible to live in our own home a lot longer than if we did not make this decision.”

He and his wife believe so much, they’re leaving their neighborhood of forty years. Speaking deliberately, and with thought, he laid out how back and forth they were, at one time even withdrawing.

These kinds of stories are the standard – only risk takers accepted. Co-housing has sprouted up around the country, but this is only the sixth development solely devoted to seniors…

“Skeptical, skeptical, skeptical. I myself, skeptical. And when we first thought of this idea, 3 years ago, I thought 10 years minimum.”

Pat Darlington, along with Kay Stewart, put it all together. Everyone is there because they believe in it. Those moving in soon all designed the property, with the help of professionals.

“We have to continue working and not losing sight of the vision, not losing sight of the values.”

They’re making an investment – many of those who are moving in also joined the property’s mortgage. That means if houses go unsold, they might have to make up the difference. Opening date is later this fall. 24 units on the property. So far, 14 are taken.

6 Responses to “Living in a community, not a nursing home”

  1. denise says:

    I appreciated this story as a co-housing community makes so much sense to me. I am curious if the new co-housing community "competes" with other types of assisted living places, or nursing homes, etc., especially since there are so many new assisted living places being built in Stillwater now. How does that affect them getting to full capacity and how do they compete with that?

  2. Pat D says:

    It is really hard to capture all that Oakcreek is with just words. It was fun working with Ben and we think he did a good job. Come see for yourself what this new neighborhood really looks and feels like…any Saturday 10-12 or Sunday 3-5.

  3. Emma Tusing says:

    Excellent piece on Oakcreek Community. Ben was able to catch the spirit of this new development which is being created here in Stillwater for seniors. Thanks.

    Emma

  4. Melanie Page says:

    Charles Durrett, the architect who helped design this community will be on campus Sept 13/14 to kick off a new project called Wake Up & Dream. Check out creativity.okstate.edu or jane.talkington@okstate.edu for ways you can participate.

  5. Helen Clements says:

    Having seen a couple of close relatives struggle with the issue of stay-in-my-home/get-proper-care, I'm really excited to know that Stillwater is making this kind of strides. Congratulations to Oakcreek Community!

  6. Jane Talkington says:

    co-housing is a fairly new term that describes a genuine community, a form you don't see much in the built environment of conventional zoning that separates people from each other, people from industry, people from services, people from transportation, etc. Many Stillwaterites will recognize this combination of communally owned yet personal property hybrid model as the 100+ year old YostLake.com just six short miles northeast of Stillwater. It is an old idea made new again because it is timeless and it works beautifully.

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