Planned housing development in Union Street, High Barnet, set to revolutionise living for older people

Times Series: Artist's impression of the proposed development Artist's impression of the proposed development

A group of older women in Barnet is hoping to combat the growing isolation that comes with age by taking charge of its own housing needs.

The Older Women’s Cohousing Group (OWCH), a group of women over the age of 50, is awaiting planning permission to develop the UK’s first cohousing scheme.

Research from the Office of National Statistics shows 60 per cent of women over 75 currently live alone, risking isolation and loneliness.

The cohousing scheme, which is set to be built in Union Street in High Barnet, aims to combat the health problems that arise from loneliness by enabling older women to maintain their independence, while being part of an active and mutually supportive community.

OWCH member Maria Brenton said: “OWCH is hoping to create history with our proposed cohousing scheme.

“This scheme is pioneered by the women themselves who want to live there. We have worked closely with architects to design a shared building where an individual’s privacy is respected, but communal amenities and support from friendly neighbours are available – all managed by residents.

“If our planning application is approved, this new alternative housing initiative can be replicated anywhere."

The proposed Union Street development will consist of 25 social and privately rented houses, each divided into one, two and three-bedroom flats.

OWCH member and Barnet resident Aleth Abadie has already felt the benefits of cohousing. Instead of staying in hospital to recover from heart surgery, the care rota designed by other OWCH members meant she could convalesce in her own home.

She said: “Following my surgery, the women involved in OWCH made all the difference to my recovery. The doctor estimated the group saved the NHS around £4,000 - £7,000 over three weeks by my recuperating at home.

“I was so grateful for the support OWCH gave me and I hope to be able to help others in a similar way by becoming a resident of this unique development in Union Street.”

Barnet Borough Council has welcomed the scheme as a way of freeing up social housing and reducing pressure on care budgets.

Kate Kennally, director for people at Barnet Council, said: “I’m fully supportive of this initiative, which is completely in line with our policy of supporting people to help themselves. I hope this will lead to the development of more cohousing schemes in Barnet.”

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