Buildings and communities can be designed with visitability in mind. This means that they are accessible to people with varying abilities—for instance, people with reduced mobility or people who might have difficulties clearing obstacles.

Visitability is achieved through inclusive design in housing. A few simple features, such as entryways without steps, 32-inch-wide doorways, 36-inch-wide hallways, and an accessible bathroom on the main floor, are essential for a person with mobility impairments.

The benefits from such design include increased opportunities for social interaction and an easier time conducting daily activities. Adding these features during construction costs very little and eliminates the need to renovate existing homes or move to new ones—conserving energy and materials and preserving social networks. At CoHo Ecovillage, visitablity features were included in the original design, paving the way for A Home in Community to develop its first project there.

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Intentional Communities

An intentional community is a planned residential community designed to have a much higher degree of teamwork than other communities. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common social, political, religious, or spiritual vision and often follow an alternative lifestyle. They usually share responsibilities and resources. Intentional communities include collective households, cohousing communities, ecovillages, communes, survivalist retreats, kibbutzim, ashrams, and housing cooperatives. New members of an intentional community are generally selected by the community's existing membership, based on the vision and values of the collective group.

The purposes of intentional communities vary. They may include sharing resources, creating family-oriented neighborhoods and living ecologically sustainable lifestyles (ecovillages). Many intentional communities focus on the importance of living and sharing life together, as opposed to the perceived trend of isolation in Western culture.

Ecovillages are intentional communities with the goal of becoming more socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable. Some aim for a population of 50 to 150 individuals. Larger ecovillages of up to 2,000 individuals exist as networks of smaller sub communities to build social networks within a broader foundation of support. Some ecovillages have attracted participation from people (not necessarily members) who have settled nearby.

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Aging In Place

The Center for Disease Control defines aging in place as "the ability to live in one's own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level." Homes and communities that are well-suited for aging in place incorporate universal design principles and offer livability features such as telecare, communication assistance, health and wellness monitoring, and home safety and security. Legislators and advocacy groups are considering ways to support the goal of aging in place. A recent report called "Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices" examines laws, policies, and programs with this purpose.

Cohousing as a Place to Age in Place
Cohousing embraces the village concept, calling on the collective abilities of the community to respond to the challenges of aging. It builds a shared sense of community through social activities, including collective dinners, book clubs, celebrations, and educational activities. Individuals become extended family members. All of these features help provide a healthy place for people to grow older, but to be fully effective, even a village requires thoughtful features.

CoHo Ecovillage was conceived and constructed with universal design concepts to support successful aging in place. The homes, built in 2007, include features that allow easy access and help prevent injuries. For example:

  • Ground-floor units have flat entryways.
  • Bathrooms contain grab bars and hand-held flexible shower heads.
  • Stairways have railings and light switches at both ends of the stairs.
  • Unobstructed pathways reduce dangers to an older person.

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Building an Inclusive Community: The AHIC Experience – Now Available on You Tube!

AHIC is delighted to announce that the informative presentation “Building an Inclusive Community: The AHIC Experience” is now available as a free resource through You Tube.

Hear the stirring story about how members of a cohousing village created an inclusive and visitable community. During the development of CoHo Ecovillage in Corvallis, Oregon, members established a nonprofit organization called A Home in Community (AHIC). For its first project, AHIC purchased a unit at CoHo to be rented at subsidized rates to people with physical disabilities who could not otherwise afford to live in cohousing. The presenters describe the process of forming and operating AHIC, the reasons why it was formed, the benefits of an inclusive and visitable community, and lessons learned to date.

You can view the two-part video at our YouTube page: or through the links below:

AHIC Presentation - Part I

AHIC Presentation - Part II

Promoting inclusive communities

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