DURHAM, North Carolina—Village Hearth Senior Cohousing in Durham, North Carolina, the first LGBT Senior Cohousing Community in North America, is on course for occupancy in Spring of 2020. This 28 single-story home community on a 15-acre wooded lot near central Durham is more than a set of structures; it represents community, camaraderie, and safety for the residents who will occupy these special homes.
Village Hearth Cohousing holds at its core the value of creating a community for LGBTs, straight friends, and allies. This senior cohousing community is the first in the nation dedicated to LGBT issues while maintaining the values that form the basis of many cohousing communities: environmental, social and economic sustainability.
Designed by cohousing architect Charles Durrett, there are a number of features that reflect residents unique wishes, along with the features that are common to cohousing, such as the 2,600-square-foot common house with a kitchen, dining/meeting room, sitting area with a gas fireplace, laundry room, exercise studio, and art studio. Other plans include the possibility of a separate workshop and storage building, along with a dog park, gardens, walking trails, and fire pit after residents move in. All but four homes have been purchased with the age range of owners between 55 to 73.
LGBT seniors may face more than the usual hurdles as they age. Some are known to have gone back “in the closet” for fear of discrimination or harm in healthcare and nursing facilities. Many LGBTs do not have the support of their families, do not have children, and fear lack of recognition of their families of choice.
With many conventional retirement and aging options closed to LGBTs, this makes the model of a senior cohousing community an important solution. “We want to be able to live comfortably as ourselves, without having to hide any aspect of ourselves,” observes Pat McAulay, Village Hearth founding community member.
Village Hearth seeks to be a model for others across the nation to come together as “out and proud” seniors who support each other through this process called aging. Village Hearth will provide the comfort and safety of living among those who share similar life experiences, with the recognition of how far LGBTs have come, and an understanding of what’s important to preserve and defend while creating the experience of the best years yet.
The notion of ‘creating place’ is both essential and deeply heartfelt. “In New York, there was this pride about not knowing your neighbor – but now it’s time to not only have neighbors but to know them. To be among people who care about you,” explains Christopher Ross, Village Hearth founding community member.