Cohousing especially for older women

OWCH (Older Women’s Cohousing) is a group of women over fifty who, as an alternative to living alone have created their own community in a new, purpose-built block of flats in High Barnet, London.

OWCH move in

The development comprises eleven one-bed, eleven two-bed and three three-bed flats, communal areas, guest room, laundry and gardens. Seventeen flats are owned by occupants on 250-year leases with the remainder earmarked for social renters on assured tenancies, managed by OWCH and Housing for Women. OWCH members were closely involved with scoping the design and construction. Designed by Pollard Thomas Edwards architects, the £4.2m scheme which was developed by Hanover Housing Association, with support from the Tudor Trust and Housing for Women won the Richard Feilden Housing Design award in 2016.

The 26 women aged 50-87 who have taken up residence formed a self-managing cohousing community, based on the shared values of neighbourliness and mutual support. As founder member Angela Ratcliffe said: “People don’t have to be bosom pals, but there will be social activities if you want to join in. Maybe once a week we’ll cook a meal together, we might employ someone to do our cleaning. There are a lot of decisions to be made. But the important thing is, they will be our decisions, and there won’t be anybody imposing them on us.”

Although schemes especially for senior people are an established option in parts of mainland Europe since the 1970s – there are 200 of these in the Netherlands alone - the OWCH initiative is the first in Britain.

tags: independence, self-determination