00:00 You’re listening to the live happier, longer podcast episode 18.
00:15 Welcome to the live happier, longer podcast. We’re your hosts. Molly Watts and Angela McDade. We are here to help you build the habits of a happier, longer life starting now.
00:28 Hey Angela. Hey Molly. How’s it going? Is going well. Excellent. Grand and everything else. I have just returned from Seattle this weekend where I went to an annual cookie exchange that I’ve been doing for about 40 years. So it’s. Oh, I didn’t realize it was that long. Yeah, it’s really, um, an important part of my tradition and I bring it up because I was actually supposed to meet our podcast guests today. Yes. In person and experience the thing that we’re going to be talking about and unfortunately that didn’t get to happen. Alas. Alas, but we have got a lot of information on it and I know about it. I wished I would have gotten to see it in person. Going to still make that happen at some point in time. But our guest today is Ben Soto. He is the managing director and editor for a blog called aging outside the lines, which is a fantastic blog.
01:24 I love it. We share a lot of the same values and as part of his aging experience and the choices that he and his wife Julie are making, they have decided to participate in live in a Co housing community. Which is a daily habit #share. Yeah, I mean in a big bad way is it shared and it’s a really interesting community. It’s called the capital hill urban cohousing project and it’s literally in downtown Seattle. Which is amazing to have it right downtown. And it’s very cool. The architect that actually built the building lives in the community as well and she’s kind of cool in her own right. She’s done a Ted talk on this whole co housing program and what cohousing is, but we wanted to talk with Ben because he really made this decision as part of his aging experience. And so without further ado, here is Ben Soto.
02:21 Hey Ben. Hi Ben.
02:24 How are you?
02:25 Doing really well. Good. A little rainy out here, but I’m looking forward to getting into some holidays.
02:32 Yeah. What I was going to ask you if the weather was as bad up there as it is down here today, because It’s blowing, it’s pretty windy. Really definition of blustery down here in Portland today.
02:43 My wife is excited because she’s sees, sees the potential of about two feet of snow up in the mountains, so looking forward to seeing skiing here.
02:51 So now you have a boot on your foot. Last I heard, don’t you?
02:55 I’m not skiing.
02:56 Yeah, I’m pretty sure I remember.
02:59 So six weeks in a boot right now.
03:04 Joy. Oh, joy. We just talked a little bit about you in our introduction and you and I met through kind of this, this community of people that are focused on aging and how to do that in a, I think of a better way. Maybe it’s a good way of saying it and you are the managing director and editor of a great blog, which I absolutely love called Aging Outside the lines. First of all, I love the name of it. It’s awesome.
03:33 Aging can be a taboo, but we’re trying to break the taboo.
03:38 Right. It’s kind of like a subject that nobody really wants to talk about. I can’t remember if it gets uh, uh, Andy Rooney says it’s the, it’s ironic. Everybody wants to live a long life, but nobody wants to talk about living longer. I can’t remember how he says it, but it’s pretty funny. It’s kind of that thing, you know, you’d want to get to the end, but you don’t want to have to figure out how to get there.
04:03 Just remind people you are, you were aging on the first day you were born. So we’re just continuing that pattern.
04:12 Right? And it beats the alternative because it’d be stopped aging. It’s a, it’s not the way you want to go. So aging outside the lines is a fantastic blog. We’re going to link to it in our show notes and just let everybody find it because I love some of the great stories you guys are sharing there. And you have a couple of partners in that process and, and all of you are in that kind of transition. You know, the 50 somethings moving from your previous careers previous lives into the next chapter.
04:44 Absolutely. Aging outside of the lines is focused on intentional living and in that intentional aging, it really does talk about when people are going through transitions in their lives, whether it’s a transition and the fifties, whether it’s the transits into retirement, whether it’s the transition to non-retirement, uh, how are they coping with those things and making a better plan. So it was kind of dreaming what their, their later life wants to be and how do we set up a design around that and then trying to figure out the habits and the routines and the things we need to put into place to make that life that you dream about.
05:21 It’s no wonder that we get along so well, right? I mean because we are, um, that intentional living is something obviously we’re all about too. And we talk about, you know, our five daily actions are all about aging with optimism and creating habits. It’s, yeah.
05:37 Yeah. I think from the first time I ever heard a ping from you, what we’ve shared those habits kind of back and forth in different words, but always a kind of coming around to those.
05:49 It’s awesome. It’s awesome. And the reason that I wanted to really talk with you today about your experiences because you’re doing something that is pretty unique personally, I mean as a part of your aging with intention and aging outside the lines for sure. You and your wife Julie decided to live in a co housing environment in Seattle.
06:12 Yes, matter of fact, my age outside the lines partners say I’m kind of the poster child for a living outside the lines part of things and I’m the youngest of the three so they can call me the child.
06:29 I did. I made the bad mistake if getting partnering with somebody that was younger than me. So I always get the opposite effect.
06:37 Yeah. We live in cohousing community in downtown Seattle, one of the very first to be built in an urban environment. There are many in rural environments within the greater Washington area and throughout the United States. But uh, this one was one that was created about three or four years ago and Julia and I were lucky to be the very last household to a subscribed to the team or the house.
07:08 Well, tell us what exactly is because when I hear cohousing, maybe because I’m a child of the sixties, I immediately think of a commune that’s kind of what first comes to my head, you know, and, and, and your place. I’ve seen it. I mean, I’ve seen it online is nowhere near a commune.
07:30 Yeah. I think Julie and I were enjoying one day a movie called the Wanderlust, I believe it’s a stars Jennifer Aniston and a Paul Rudd. And they happened upon a commune in the middle of nowhere. And, and, uh, and, and we oftentimes, they, in that movie, they talk about it being intentional living. And that’s a phrase we use all the time here in cohousing. But it is nothing like that in the movie because that movie showed, uh, uh, let’s see, uh, shared, uh, overall shared houses with no, uh, no doors on the bathrooms. And there is no sharing of partners or any weird might be conjuring up from, from hippie days gone by. Um, no. Uh, so what cohousing is as it is a sharing a community with one another. There are many different forms. A matter of fact, I just saw one the other day that was a cohousing, a tiny house village, so everybody lived in their own tiny houses, but they had a shared space in which they shared, whether it be a farm, whether it be a, a kitchen and dining space that they all hang out with.
08:47 But there’s some idea of your sharing this life intentionally with groups of other, of other families. Mine happened to be one that it was nine different households. We all got together to design the building that we’re in and got to pick the different designs in which we each have our own, uh, units or apartments here in Seattle. Um, you know, so it’s our own home with our own living room, our own kitchens or in our own living quarters. But we also have within the larger building a lot of shared spaces where we purposefully interact as a community, uh, everything within this community, uh, where we can engage our large, a common house in which we have a very large dining room and hold meals, community meals there two or three times a week sharing meals with anything from 25 to 35 people at a given time share, uh, in small teams and the cooking and the chores that go on around the larger buildings.
09:59 So we’re also kind of both the tenants of this building, but we’re also the landlords of the building as well. Um, we have a community farm on the rooftop of this, uh, of this cohousing community here in downtown Seattle, which we farm some of that, um, garden for ourselves and our community usage, but we also a sublet about two thirds of it to a local restaurant in the area called Lark that’s a very well known and what they want to do as a feature of Uber, Uber local produce in the area. So they’re literally about three blocks down, have a wonderful restaurant. And they come into the garden once a week and and harvest for their customers. So that part isn’t even just the community in which all the nine households that live with one another, but it’s also how do we engage with the larger community of Seattle and make it a part of something we’re doing here.
11:02 Right. That’s. So that’s really cool that you guys are engaged with the community at large as well as the community in and of itself. Just within the building. Yeah. That’s awesome. I had a question from something you said early on and you talk about your own personal space and how you guys designed that and do you rent your apartment or do you actually own. Is it like, do you guys all own a part of the building?
11:23 Cohousing communities in general are formed and a lot of different ways, so ours wouldn’t be typical the others, but it’s just something that we’ve come to learn a co housing in general, depending on where, what city, what state, what county or in a can all be done in different ways because municipalities zone differently. They have different laws based on different types of housing. The financing is very different in order to do this in Seattle, there had to be a situation where we figured out a way in which collectively we could buy the land a setup us as a, our own llc to manage the land, ultimately create the building and build up the building, etc. So we have that as a holding company but on the same end of it in order to pay, as you know, it’s not just one mortgage, but we’re all kind of all paying into that mortgage, so in order to do that. We’re doing that. We’re renting from ourSelves as a collective organization. So yeah,
12:34 I had read that in the and the article that we said we would share, and yeah, that was just an interesting way to, to overcome that bigger group.
12:43 Yeah. And I guess things a lot of different ways that people do that, but that’s, that’s how we’ve set ourselves up. We’ve set ourselves up as a separate llc. We meet. Matter of fact, I have a business meeting tomorrow night, uh, which we have about once a month. We come together and we make decisions based on our, uh, you know, what should our rents be for this year and how much we paid down our, our mortgage and, you know, all kinds of little decisions like that that go into a, at least how the forming part. Um, I was actually even reading just today that there’s a hundred and forty cohousing communities in just the formation stages right now just in the US alone. So there are people out there making these same kind of decisions trying to get to the area where they’re either buying the land or figuring out how to build the home, kind of getting to those stages where they can officially say they’re, they’re open and running, but typically a lot of these cohousing matter of fact, I would say the majority of them fill up all of their units even before they, uh, they come into being.
13:56 There are many though that because of the transitional aspect of housing, uh, there are established communities that have openings all the time for families and new people to come onboard.
14:11 Okay. And so with them, so you said there’s nine, nine families within the building.
14:16 families in our clubs and community. Yeah. And we’re, we’re intergenerational. So we’ve had everything from a baby born here. You’re already within our first year to someone now approaching 70. So I’m pretty, pretty wide in there and julie and I are, we’re one of three of the household is no longer have children. So. And we’re one of them as empty nesters.
14:43 Yeah. So tell us a little bit more about that. Yeah, it’s definitely a lot of kids. Tell us about that decision that you and julie made as to why, you know, in this transitional kind of period, you know, and, and as you were looking at opera options, either in downsizing, you know, empty nesting, what really made cohousing appealing to you and as you are aging, what do you see? What do you see as a benefit of that?
15:09 Sure. I’m also that her and I came about it from two different sides. Um, and that is only because we, we’re, we’re like the brady bunch. We came together about seven or eight years ago and had combined families and different life experiences from that. Early on in that stage I found out from julie that, uh, when her children were younger, she actually looked into cohousing communities within seattle back in those days and only found communities that were in more rural settings. and that wasn’t something that appealed to her. However, she was very much drawn to the aspect of this concept of intergenerational communities living together where you had, um, a neighbors that would watch after your kids playing out in the yard and vice versa. And just that strong sense of community there. Um, I came at it from another perspective of, um, my, uh, upbringing as a mexican american family in southern California.
16:19 And I was always surrounded by a lot of cousins of, of many different ages and aunts and uncles and grandparents. So I came from a very big family, but I also had parents that had many of those family as well as long time relationships from high school on up that I grew up around all my entire life. Uh, they called themselves the Compas] or the compadres that they would still get together every week even to this date and playing cards together and it was just these long standing friendships. So I wanted to have community in my life, much like what I saw growing up where I had, you know, a network of friends that I could easily talk to, play games with, do things with on a regular basis and living in a city. It’s not necessarily would think with as many people as are packed into a city and have a lot of that.
17:15 But it really did require me to do something much more intentional to have some kind of community like that around me. So that’s, that’s why I came to it. And when we were both together, we happen to run across a seattle times article, much like the one that you guys had had two before this that came out seven or eight years ago when we were first together about the cohousing communities in seattle. And that just happened to spark a conversation between julia and I that we found out we both had some really strong desire towards that. So awesome. Yeah. So it comes from a different rooted place, but we both came to the same agreement on that. And we also, we’re at a point in our lives where our children were all exiting high school and making their decisions on whether to not to a still live with mom and dad or go off and try living on their own.
18:12 and we come from families, my family with divorce and other things. So for families and a lot of different places and all of our kids had made really the decision around that time of last one exiting high school if they wanted to live in their own homes. So, so they’re all living out, out and about and the adulting their way into whatever life they want. And um, so at that time, juliet and I decided we were going to go live, uh, urban because we had always been attracted to seattle, the city life and the energy. And we seem to be spending all of our weekends in the city. Um, so we first moved to a community very close to downtown and columbia city within the seattle area, a found that we really gravitated to it, gravitated to it so much that we got rid of our car and just started riding a light rail and buses and using uber and all the other sharing thing around here and found that we just wanted to even move further in and, and, uh, started to do a little bit of poking around and learned that I had a, a best friend at work that was directly related to some people here at the capital hill, urban cohousing who were starting this up and she thought, oh, I think they’ve got a couple of openings. And When we inquired they had a one unit left. And uh, luckily julia and I are the last to get on board years. Yeah.
19:49 That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Well, it’s a really, um, interesting. You know, the whole idea is it’s still, you know, kind of an alternative lifestyle for sure. growing like you said, but just to hear you say you said it a couple of times in your description of the of the community environment and what makes it special, the share aspect, so our daily action number three is share and that’s all about engaging and it’s really set up to, we call it an actionable item because it’s something that if you don’t live in cohousing right, you’ve got to take action to engage with people and to combat that loneliness and isolation, but you’ve kind of got that built in.
20:27 Yeah, and it. It really Works well for me. I would say that I, along with maybe about a third of the community, consider themselves a introverts just by energy nature. The other two thirds are extroverts. By having your own place, you can still go and cocoon and get that energy back, but then launch yourself back in the community and engage at a just whatever level is comfortable to you. The sharing part, gosh, there’s so much sharing around here. I mean just your everyday lives around the dinner table that you share. We share a meal a three or four times a week around here, so we have just those constant communications that are going on in the summer time. Many of our front doors are open and you know, it’s nothing for me not to have a four year old on a tricycle wheeling themselves from their house over to my house, you know, and not sharing with me or coming to sit next to me and watch a baseball game and my teaching them baseball. So as an empty nester, it’s awesome because you’ve all of a sudden become a, a, a aunt or uncle just by a and in an instant to about nine to 10 children here. So.
21:47 Absolutely. Absolutely. I love the whole idea. I love the fact that you’re not only taking that step, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a bold step as far as aging outside the lines goes. But it sounds like you and julie, you know, really did find a shared passion together and it’s working and I can see it working for you for years to come. And then as you get older, and I think you’ve mentioned that there were a couple of people that are a little bit older than you guys in the community, right?
22:15 Yes. In fact, two of our retired cohousing members are retired and they chose cohousing specifically because of their aging. They have no children. So they chose this specifically to have people that will look after them, not necessarily to the point of, of, in home care, but somebody that knows they’re not there and someone that knows when they’re there just to take them to a doctor’s appointment or to help them out in some way, shape or form. So that is very intentional for them in that respect. And I’m sure we’ve kidded around here that, uh, you know, that the first a household to a potentially a move off and uh, uh, go, uh, go live in another community somewhere that we wouldn’t rent the house to another family, but if instead rent the house to a nurse that is well adapted age.
23:16 Well, it’s funny. I’ve thought about this while you were talking before too. I don’t know how familiar you are with a blue zones. Yes, yes. Yeah. So we, we did a little, we did one of our podcasts on blue zones and we referenced them quite a bit in our research, but I think that inherent in these places where people are living to 100 years or living aging at a very optimal level, there’s a lot of built in community. JuSt kind of like you were mentioning with your parents, like that’s kind of just a natural part of their culture is to have the younger generations and, and Intergenerational living within households and within the community itself. And it’s where both generations, like the young people are benefiting from the wisdom and the time that the elders can give them. And then the elders will obviously, as they’re getting older, they benefit from the taking care that the kids are doing.
24:12 Absolutely. I mean even many of the families here are transplants to seattle. They have their kids, grandparents are living all across the country and even in other countries and you know, they can have a makeshift grandparents right here in, in their, uh, in their own community. And also, yeah, it has a lot of that as well. I would have to say too, just so that your listeners know as well as there are communities also that are based simply on being senior communities, you know, they’re 55 and older that are very specific to just staying generational. That’s not something that appealed to julie and I at all and obviously anybody here, but there are communities that are built around that concept as well.
24:59 yeah. So you, I know are involved with. Tell me exactly the name, I’m gonna. Say it wrong.
25:04 Yeah. Cohousing.org is a us a national housing organization. There’s also an international housing organizations. So there’s also, IC.org, which is a also meant for international communities out there. The whole concept was started, I believe in, uh, around amsterdam or something. They’re actually at Denmark, so it’s a, it’s a us or I should say it’s a european model that was brought to the United States and really has taken off here. A matter of fact, the first time I had heard a cohousing was from the documentary happy, which, uh, which featured housing from europe. So that’s where its beginnings were from. The cohousing organization that, uh, that we’re a part of, is also a hosting the national cohousing conference in late may this year. I’m, their url is 2019.cohousing.org and that is happening in portland and that’s depending on different models. They have courses and sessions that are all about people that want to just learn about cohousing.
26:16 There’s also sessions that are associated with those that are, that are in the forming stages of cohousing. And then there’s also sessions that are for communities like my own that are about sustaining what it is that they’re doing and how to kind of improve, um, one of the things that they’re doing. Because as you would expect, even as being inside a company, let alone inside of a small family, there’s a lot of interpersonal growth and communication growth and organizational growth that needs to happen. Order for us to kind of continue to work like a fine oiled machine here. Because it is not onlY shared experiences, but it’s also shared management.
26:54 YeAh. Yeah. There’s, so, it’s just fascinating to me. It’s absolutely fascinating and I’m, we’re gonna have a link to all of that information on that convention because I think it’s just a great opportunity for people that are in and around us to investigate that information too. And we will also put the link to aging outside the lines down there and the link to the article in seattle times that that talks about the capital hill urban cohousing that you guys live in specifically. So we just appreciate you for talking with us today, ben, and giving us a little bit in our audience a little bit more education on what cohousing is and the benefits that you’re finding in it. And I can’t wait to hear. I know you guys are working on your own podcast so we can’t wait to hear more about that.
27:37 yeah, I don’t have enough to tell you. That’s okay.
27:41 We’ll talk about it when you guys get there. I know it’s a work in progress, but uh, I love it. The blog. So happy that we’ve connected and again, just thanks for sharing all this information with us today.
27:51 Thank you so much. Absolutely. It was a pleasure. And anytime either of you were around seattle, a drop on by. We love to give tours around the community all the time and uh, love to have you for a meal so you can see what it’s like a, for three people to cook for 27 or 30 some odd people.
28:10 And I wanted, I was at the listener. I don’t know. I was supposed to be there and I’m so disappointed that I didn’t get to do it, but I’m going to be the next time I’m up. We’re doing it.
28:22 Thanks for listening to the live happier, longer podcast. Now it’s time to move, learn, share, give and let go. Five daily actions to make the rest of your life the best of your life. See you next week.