The Babayagas' House

“I’m 84, but what time I have left is going to be happy and fulfilled, I’m sure of that. Old age isn’t about being shipwrecked. It isn’t an illness. It can be beautiful ,and I plan to live it that way, with my friends and colleagues here.”
Babayaga founder Thérèse Clerc
"Aging in place: It’s what 90 percent of seniors say they want for themselves, according to AARP. But even after we’ve retrofitted our homes, do we really want robot “companions” and sensor-powered systems that inform friends or family when we haven’t opened the refrigerator for two days? Isolation might not be a good trade-off for independence — apart from anything else, research shows clearly that it can kill us. What’s the option if you’re not the retirement community type or can’t afford longterm care?"

"Thérèse Clerc was in her mid-60s when she started to think about how women could grow into old age without losing autonomy. An energetic, passionate feminist living in Paris, she knew that her generation of French women had not been able to build up retirement funds to cover at-home care, because they had spent years caring for families. Older women in France, as elsewhere, are among the poorest segment of the population. And Clerc didn’t like what she saw when she visited state-run homes, where life was dull and regimented. Clerc knew that living by someone else’s rules or on their schedule was not in her future. A lifelong activist, she also was interested in demonstrating that old age can be a beautiful time of life.

So Clerc got together with some activist friends and came up with the idea to create an exclusively female, self-governing, environmentally friendly cohousing collective for women who want to live independently into old age — yet within a supportive and fully engaged community. They would call it the Babayagas’ House after a supernatural being in Slavic folkore — a witch who offers guidance to younger women."

"The Babayaga model is an urban one. In Paris, the house is close to shops and the metro. Being centrally located is important for the women’s ease in coming and going, and for encouraging the greater community to come in and participate in what the Babayagas have to offer — and their offerings are significant.

A key feature of the Babayaga model is its 860 square ft. ground floor space that’s dedicated as an open university that anyone from the surrounding community can attend. In this intergenerational center, the Babayagas run courses, offer discussion groups, do creative writing and give concerts. One of the tenets of the Babayaga model is that the residents will be actively engaged with the world politically, socially and culturally.
“Staying intelligent will keep us healthy…. I believe women who are happy, not bored, will live healthier lives.”
Thérèse Clerc
“To live long is a good thing but to age well is better.”
Thérèse Clerc

Excerpts via/More Senior Planet

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Photograph via Senior Planet

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