#945 France’s Baba Yaga House is a model for healthy aging

By Cathryn Wellner / February 16, 2014
Baba Yaga's House

The Baba Yaga of Russian folklore; by Сергей Панасенко-Михалкин (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A standing ovation for the French government, please. They provided 4 million euros to a group of aging feminists to build the Baba Yaga House, a self-managed home in the Parisian suburb of Montreuil that will allow them to retain their independence by supporting each other. The government will likely recoup that investment in lower health-related costs as the women age.

Before the home opened, Founder Thérèse Clerc told Alison Hird of RFI English:

The dream has taken shape now, and every time I walk past this work site and see my future house, I get a thrill. 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.

Each of the 24 apartments is 40 square meters (just over 430 square feet). Residents are women aged sixty and older. Clerc says her generation of women had large families and too little time in the work force to build up good pensions. By pooling their strengths and resources, they can age in place but also in community.

Residents not only live together and look after each other, they continue working on behalf of women’s rights. They have set aside an 80 square meter space on the ground floor for an open university, where they will run courses and discussion groups, creative writing, concerts and anything else they think of to support healthy aging. They also have a 20 square meter apartment for visitors. Should they need more onsite care in future, they will make that space available for visiting doctors and nurses.

The dream was decades from initial idea to reality. Clerc began thinking about her own aging when she was in her mid-60s. Visits to state-run seniors’ residences convinced her she could not endure the regimented, controlled life they offered. So she and her group of close, feminist friends began lobbying for an alternative. They were ultimately successful, though Clerc was 85 by the time the women, in their 60s, 70s and 80s, moved into their six-story seniors’ home.

There are a lot of us gazing into our personal crystal balls and seeing the time approaching when we will want to pool our limited resources with those of friends. We want a dignified, affordable living situation, surrounded by people with whom we are compatible and know we can rely on.

When I was living in the Bay Area, I learned of two seniors’ homes organized around interests rather than age. One was for activists, the other for performers (musicians, actors and others). Other options exist, such as the Abbeyfield Houses, which can be found in countries around the world. Some are still in the thinking stage, such as Baba Yaga’s House in Toronto and Janet Torge’s idea of Radical Resthomes, prompted by a story she produced for CBC.

We will need a lot of good ideas in the coming decades. If you have some, or know of affordable alternatives, please add them in the comments.

Thanks to Tess Healy for the tip about the French Baba Yagas.

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About the author

Cathryn Wellner

Writer, storyteller, foodie, enviro, animal lover, photo enthusiast, traveler - opinionated but open. I wake up eager to start the day.

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9 comments
releaf1954 - February 16, 2014

I love this!

Reply
Naomi Baltuck - February 16, 2014

Wow! So forward thinking. This truly is impressive!

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Carol Johnstone - March 3, 2014

If i couldn’t live in Paris, I’d love to figure out a way to do this in Halifax.

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thejoyfulrecluse - November 2, 2014

A wonderful idea whose time has come!!

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iris - November 11, 2014

We are a community of peers with personal autonomy and increased mutual caring as we age. We hope to avoid the burden of care being placed on family members & avoid nursing homes. There is a significant need for a Canadian Baba Yaga Place.

(1) OUR VISION
Baba Yaga Place Toronto is an innovative model of living that will support community members to age within their own walls through mutual care and surrounded by like-minded companions, while pursuing both their personal interests and commitment to the broader community.

(2) PUBLiC WEBSITE
http://www.babayagaplace.ca
Join our MEMBERSHIP for less than $40 / year

(3) LEARN from the exclusive information on our interactive web site.
http://www.babayagaplace.ca/resources/archived-documents

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    Cathryn Wellner - November 11, 2014

    May you have much success with this effort. A Canadian Baba Yaga Place can be a model for others to follow.

    Reply
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