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Co-housing in the time of COVID-19

Smack dab in the middle of bustling West Asheville is a four-acre “preserve” that is dedicated to a different kind of group living. Called Westwood, it is a co-housing community of about 50 people ranging in age from 3 to 95. Residents live in homes that are clustered together on part of the property, leaving plenty of shared open spaces for gardens, woods, paths and play and sitting areas. A large, shared Common House contains meeting and dining rooms, a large kitchen, guest rooms, co-working spaces and laundry facilities.

How do the residents manage in this time of stay-at-home orders?" I spoke with Linda Giltz, an AARP volunteer in the Mountain Region and the current president of the Westwood Co-housing Board of Directors. “Here we are,” she says, “living in a community specifically designed to promote social connections, and now we’re having to practice social (physical) distancing! We have had to come up with special rules and guidelines to try and keep us all safe and healthy.”

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AARP Volunteer Linda Glitz tends the community garden

“Of course it’s a challenge,” Linda continues, “and we really miss our potlucks and chatting in the mail room, but interestingly, our ‘community’ mindset has helped us more than hurt us. For example, over the 20 years Westwood has existed, we’ve learned by necessity ways to support each other and work together. In these unusual times, that translates into forming teams to buy in bulk from a local farmer or store and check in on older or more isolated residents."

Linda makes another interesting point. “At Westwood, we’re used to asking each other for help. There’s no stigma attached, no thought of having to tough it out on your own. As a result, we’ve significantly reduced total trips to the grocery store, which most likely is keeping more of us safer. Or, when some of our older residents asked for help learning how to get online or use Zoom, a few of our younger and middle-age residents pitched right in, with the result that we probably have more tech-savvy seniors than most places.”

To learn more about Westwood, check out their website:

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