STILLWATER, Okla (KOKH) — "Nobody had heard of cohousing in this part of the country, nobody."
Pat Darlington is talking about Stillwater's very own Oakcreek Community. Built in 2012, it's one of only a handful of cohousing communities in the country designed to prevent families from having to face a very tough questions.
"Where are we going to put mom," Darlington said. "What are we going to do with mom?"
Cohousing is an intentional community of 20 to 40 privately owned homes clustered around a common facility. The idea began in Denmark in 1972 before spreading to Europe and eventually the U.S. It provides adults the ability to gracefully age with dignity. Some of the adults living there are retired, others are working.
There are about 148 communities in the U.S. with 17 under construction. Tulsa is getting its first cohousing community, Heartwood Commons, which should be compete in 2020. But there's not one yet in the Metro.
Darlington's community includes 33 people living in 24 homes centered around a large house with a kitchen, several living spaces, and 3 bedrooms for when kids or grandchildren come to visit a resident.
People gather for meals, entertainment, and just to be together. Cohousing makes it easy to form clubs, organize elder care, even carpool.
"I want a sustainable life. I want relationships with people," said Tracy Nordquist, the newest resident of Oakcreek. She wanted to downsize for a simpler life.
"I wanna have time for exercise and not just taking care of day-to-day chores," Nordquist said.
Doug Sander felt lonely in his old neighborhood and says at Oakcreek, people are genuinely concerned.
"We've had a number of people trip and fall in the grass," Sander said. "They didn't necessarily hurt themselves seriously, but there's always somebody right there to say 'Oh can we help you?'"
Every part of any cohousing community is designed to get people to interact with each other. The garages are separate from the homes and that's intentional.
"(Walking to the garage) keeps you active, your walking past your neighbor's door," said Darlington.
The architect even designed the railing on the front porches for perching. Darlington says they're "butt high." If someone is sitting on the porch, it means they're open to company.
"So (for example) Mike and Julie are sitting there talking, and I'm not exactly sure I want to commit," Darlington said. "So I'm going to perch until I see if they're really talking or if they're going to offer me a drink or whatever."
It's during these conversations that residents learn about each others lives. They know each others names, their kids names, where their kids live, who their doctor is and their health situation.
Almost on cue, Darlington's neighbor opened the door.
"I know Cheryl's been sick," Darlington said to her neighbor, who responded "Yes, I have!"
With four different floor plans, more than seven acres of land, a creek, a field of flowers, even a community compost pile, Oakcreek is a peaceful, quiet community.
Darlington couldn't have imagine a happier life. She's part of an active community with people who care about her and will be there when she needs them.
When asked about her quality of life right now Darlington responded, "Oh about an 11 on a scale of 10."
If you're interested in learning more about Cohousing, click here.