Co-housing in Winnipeg gives a new spin on women and retirement
Five women, who were once strangers, are creating a retirement community in Winnipeg that involves co-housing, shared dinners and movie nights.
Two years ago Beverly Suek,71, founded the Women’s Housing Initiative Manitoba (WHIM), a housing co-op for women who are retired, or are nearing retirement.
The idea started when Suek was living on her own. Her kids were grown up and her spouse had passed away. She wasn’t interested in living alone, so she started a community project where women could live together in a family-like setting.
She bought the old Twin Pillars Bed and Breakfast in Riverview and turned it into a retirement community.
WATCH: Five women who started off as strangers created a retirement community that involve co-housing in Winnipeg. Global’s Lauren McNabb reports.
“It’s very affordable and many of the rooms are under $1,000, including expenses,” Nicoline Guerrier, 54, a resident of the house said.
“There’s the friendly factor too, always someone to chat to.”
Guerrier moved to Winnipeg from Montreal two years ago and decided to try living at the home during her two-year contract position with her job as an interim minister for a local church.
“There are three full bathrooms in the house, which makes it work really well. And everyone has their one space. All bedrooms are different sizes,” Guerrier said.
There’s also two guest rooms for family and friends when they visit.
Dividing the chores
Currently, there are five women in the seven-bedroom house, ranging in age from 50 to 70. There are even three dogs.
The women hire professionals to clean the common areas, rake the yard and shovel the snow. These big tasks are covered in the budget.
“Everyone is responsible for own room, and the kitchen is cleaned up as we go,” Guerrier said.
Once a week a housemate is responsible for cooking dinner for everyone.
“It’s such a bonus to not have to make dinner seven nights a week and it’s different things you normally wouldn’t make yourself, so that’s fun,” she said.
The house is at a capacity, but people still stop over to tour the house, Guerrier said.
“The most recent resident moved in last weekend. One of the women was here for a year for an experiment and kept her house empty,” she said.
“She decided she would go back to her old house. She liked living here but decided she didn’t want to stay here permanently. But she’s still really connected with us and organizes events.”
If you do want to live in the house, there is a questionnaire and interview process involved. The women want to make sure tenants hold certain values, such as being non-homophobic and respecting people’s privacy, Guerrier said.
“We’re not looking for clones like ourselves, but people who are able to get along.”
Benefits of co-housing
Guerrier said living with other people is not only more affordable, the socializing aspect helps deter isolation.
Stats Canada says 31.5 per cent of senior women and 16 per cent of senior men in Canada live alone.
According to Canada’s National Seniors Council, being socially isolated can lead to negative health behaviours, such as drinking, smoking, less active lifestyles and poor eating habits.
Social ties, through friends, family and community groups, can preserve brain health in seniors and socialalization may help delay memory loss in elderly people, according to another study from the The American Journal of Public Health.
WATCH: Guerrier breaks down the benefits of co-housing
The housing initiative in Winnipeg is helping create an active social life for many people, not just living in the house.
Recently the women held an Amnesty International letter writing campaign and community seminars on truth and reconciliation topics. They go out to movies together, have musicians come to the house and invite the neighbours over for dinner.
There’s also an outdoor hot tub and a three-season porch — all designed to encourage sociability.
“It’s a lot livelier than going to your apartment alone. It’s nice to be part of a family even though my family is not here,” she said.
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