By Miriam Drake
Those of you who read my book, “Expat Medical Emergency Preparation Manual” are aware of our need as expats living in Cuenca and in other parts of Ecuador to form and develop what I call Care Communities or Contact Groups. These groups are essential for survival. Ecuadorian medical facilities operate around the assumption that most residents have large family groups to support them.
As expats, most of us enter this beautiful country in ones and twos, without such support groups.
As we age, we may want to take the idea of Care Community one step further. I suggest we begin thinking about the concept of co-housing in Ecuador. Co-housing has been successfully functioning for decades as a lifestyle choice in Europe, North America and elsewhere as a viable way for folks to thrive either as elders or in inter-generational groups. The co-housing lifestyle has many advantages. One is pure economics. Another is social, psychological, health, and/or spiritual wellbeing as we gracefully age. There are some groups that have formed around shared spiritual beliefs, artistic interests, professional interests, or other fundamental interests such as organic farming. Think of the kibbutz system in Israel.
In the U.S., a new model of assisted living and nursing homes is finding a wider audience. Elders are less interested in living in large impersonal facilities, and more are finding large homes with roommates, or clusters of homes on a property more to their liking. There is a U.S. nonprofit organization called The Green House Project (thegreenhouseproject.org) that is a good example of this concept. Innovators in Canada, Europe and Australia have also imagined some cool designs for aging and dying in a fully supported manner as well.
What I recommend is that those interested in the concept get together with your Care Community or Contact Group, or start one (a group of 10-20 expats with the idea of mutual support and benefit). Begin brainstorming how you could structure a conscious living arrangement that would meet your current and future needs.
There are many ways to structure this idea. Would you prefer to “co-house” in one building such as living as roommates in a large house or hacienda, or living separately, yet close in an apartment or condo building? Or would it be better to establish a little village of small cottages in a beautiful setting?
What organizational size and structure makes sense to your group? Once you know this you can continue gathering details about the needs and interests of group members. What are individual values, interests, needs and priorities, and what are those of your group overall. What are people concerned about? Also, list medical/health status, current and projected. How will you organize and pay for a caretaker, a driver, nursing care, housekeeping, meal planning and preparation, and other live in or visiting services? How will you set up a longitudinal budget for the project and pay for necessities and extras? Perhaps there may be a subgroup or two who need to form their own co-housing units due to health, financial or other key reasons. This is fine. Take these into account as you begin to outline a potential overarching design.
Research successful co-housing communities all over the world and apply what you learn to your group’s process. There is a growing body of information online. Break down the research so that each group member reviews one or two articles and then reports to the group. Research and group discussions are key. Consider folding in new members who share your interests and philosophy as you go along.
The next step is to look at what’s already happening locally. There are two possibilities I know about in Cuenca. Our friend and expat Bodhi Kroll is beginning a co-housing project right now. Since he is in the beginning stage of creating this residence, your timing couldn’t be better. He is calling his project “The Mansion”. Contact him at BodhiBurgers@gmail.com to learn more.
Another possibility in our area is the Residentia Geriatrico San Andres being built by Doctora Bavo in the historic district at Tomas Ordonez 14-69 between Rafael Arizaga y Pio Bravo. For information, call her at 098 771 3131 or (593) (7) 286 9955 or write email@example.com
Both Bodhi Kroll and Dra. Bravo have good hearts and either project might be a good choice depending on your circumstances and needs.
You can find more information about how Cuenca expats can prepare for medical emergencies and end of life in Cuenca, in Miriam Drake‘s book, “Expat Medical Emergency Preparation Manual, Revised 2020 Edition”. This book is downloadable, and costs $15, payable via PayPal. Contact Miriam today at firstname.lastname@example.org to order your copy.