Friday, May 23, 2014

Changes at Home



I have written often about how Paris just feels like home to me. I always knew that it would but after having spent 5 months there in 2012, I am convinced that my TRUE self is Parisienne. BUT, at least 6 months of my year is spent in a suburb of Vancouver, Canada where I have lived most of my life.
Home has some lovely places to walk.

Monsieur and I bought this apartment when we started living together twenty years ago. It was practical decision based on a few realities of life. I love to travel, read and visit with friends. Monsieur had just left his job as a Library Director and was working in a bookshop so price was a consideration. As household tasks are not our favourite activities, this apartment seemed ideal. We have large maintained gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, an activity centre, guest bedrooms, and proximity to bus and shopping (Safeway, Shopper's Drug Mart and the liquour store).
We have award-winning gardens but maybe we need a playground and some vegetable plots.

Before I retired, we paid for major renovations to our suite, comfortable high-quality furnishings and appliances. I designed the apartment to be a sanctuary for the quiet activities that I prefer. Then we retired! Since our retirement, this apartment complex has experienced ageing pains and dissension between the owners. Previously the domaine of downsizing older adults, the larger apartment size, expansive grounds and generous storage lockers have made the complex desirable to families. The addition of children to the mix has challenged the lifestyle of the "older than us" group who remember the days of half acre properties and stay at home mums.

Our eight buildings reflect the North American use of wood in construction and the Wet Coast rainy climate. It is now time for some reconstruction and refurbishment of a 40 year old infrastructure. Unfortunately, with our demographic of money-strapped young families and elders on fixed incomes, our owners are unwilling or unable to authorize the expenditures necessary to make the repairs. The peaceful retirement community has become a mini-state with political divisions and regular referenda.

Living together like this is a mid-20th century concept in Western Canada where our physical vastness has encouraged the notions of individuality and "private" ownership. In Europe, most of the people that I met live in family enclaves (Shetland), small apartments (London and Paris) or council housing(throughout the United Kingdom). There are few locked doors in Shetland (mostly due to suspicion of immigrant workers!!!) while in London and Paris, I have rented apartments without ever setting eyes on the other tenants. While the upper middle class have homes in the country, your average
city dweller visits parks and squares to enjoy the outdoors and may have an allotment garden to provide vegetables and flowers for the home.

Our community is definitely in a time of upheaval and change! The beliefs of the older adults are being challenged. My younger nieces and nephews will probably never own detached homes. Individuals will need to learn to  compromise to live in communities of mixed-age and mixed ethnicities. There will need to be long-term planning to deal with the effects of age and moisture on wooden structures.

The elderly owners of this housing community have enjoyed the benefits of a mostly homogenous neighbourhood which is no longer a reality. In our community, 60 percent of households speak a language other than English at home and many of these families choose to live in apartments. What will  the next few years look like?

Personally, I enjoy travel and I trained in the 1980's to teach  English as a Second Language to adults because I value ethnic diversity. Canada has historically chosen a "mosaic" rather than "melting pot"
model of immigration. For my neighbourhood this might mean having a "potluck" instead of our traditional barbecue (whose menu has not changed in the 20 years that I have lived here!!!)

Monsieur and I are hoping to start an on-site book club that will meet in our fireside room. Hopefully, this will encourage interaction and exchange of ideas between residents. I am keen to find out about facilitating a daytime yoga programme for older adults. It is impossible to ignore the presence of young families in our apartment community. Higher housing prices mean that they will become permanent residents.

I was a mum in the 1970's when young families had few dollars to spare. I traded baby-sitting with my neighbours, loved mums' and tots' play-group, and bought and sold much of my baby equipment through the "Buy and Sell".  Fortunately, in the 1970's, I was a stay-at-home student mum, confident that my fledgling accountant husband and I would, one day, own a house with a yard and a lawn mower.

Today's young families need the same kinds of community support. Perhaps a drop-in playgroup, a baby-sitting co-op or a playground  would address some of the "new reality." One of my more revolutionary ideas is to address some of the building fund shortfall by renting out part of our recreational complex to "before and after" out-of-school care.

There is a "plein air" painting contest each year at home.

I have been home only a week. Ironically, my fellow traveller from last fall's travels has won a cruise and is eager for me to accompany her. The suitcase (oh, the suitcase!!!) is not even unpacked and plans are being made! Be careful what you wish for!



I may be leaving again soon!



3 comments:

  1. Like you, I believe in an old world model of smaller, shared housing, although we've been fortunate enough to have a house throughout our adult lives. My husband has been president o our strata council for the past few years and we've got a good taste of the potential problems, such as you describe. Still, it seems the only sustainable model overall, so I admire the way you've committed to making it better. Our kids mostly are in strata housing also and we want them to see us make it work.... Your plans for yours are so positive, and I hope some of them pan out. Meanwhile, very exciting to have another cruise in the near future!

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    1. In the future, strata housing, co-op housing and non-market housing will become the norm. It will be essential for people to have the skills to live together and to use some creativity to build supportive communities. Monsieur got a list of titles that our public library has available to book clubs (a good place for us to start) and I am eager to proceed with this project.

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  2. Here in Australia the quarter acre block with the (detached) house on it is becoming a thing of the past too. We still have one but commonly young people are looking at medium density housing and in Sydney where I grew up high density is becoming the norm.

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