As the world’s population rises, cities become increasingly crowded, and house prices go up, more and more people are exploring alternative ways of living. In fact, across much of the world, communal living isn’t considered alternative at all, with most people living in extended family groups in villages where caring for one’s neighbors is considered a natural obligation. The Western focus on the nuclear family certainly has its benefits, but it’s not for everyone, and some people find that community living brings a range of benefits – practical, psychological, and spiritual – that make it well worth a try.
Types of community living
Have you ever tried community living? Lots of people do without realizing it. College students sharing a house often end up sharing chores, helping each other through illnesses, and assisting each other with coursework. Elderly and infirm people often spend time in care homes, supported accommodation, or senior communities with communal facilities, where community members are encouraged to mingle. Many people become temporary residents of communities when they travel and stay in youth hostels or on campsites. In villages and dense urban estates, it’s common for tight-knit social communities to form, with various forms of mutual support extending beyond the family group.
Why live in a community?
There are lots of good reasons to live in a community, including the following:
It’s natural for us – research shows that in prehistoric times, most people lived in tribes of around 150 people. Our social instincts have adapted to suit this, which is why we easily find ourselves drawn to make new friends up until we reach this threshold.
We all need support sometimes – whether it’s babysitting, somebody to fetch the shopping when we’re injured or ill, a skilled friend to help with DIY, or just a shoulder to cry on, having somebody nearby who is ready to step in can make it much easier to cope.
Giving support makes us feel good – it’s emotionally rewarding to help other people, and sometimes it only takes a few moments of applying our particular skills to make a world of difference to a person who is unskilled in that area.
We can learn from each other – the best way to expand your horizons and learn more about the world is to spend more time talking to other people. You can also pick up practical and even academic knowledge that enriches your life.
It saves money – if you’re getting by on a low budget, it’s more practical to share resources than pay for everything individually. Bulk buying is cheaper, so you can also save money by clubbing together with your neighbors to get the things you need.
It’s kind to the environment – heating a shared kitchen and dining area uses less fuel than heating lots of individual ones. Many communities also operate on sustainable living principles, cultivating their own food while reusing and recycling other materials.
It’s good for children – kids who have multiple adults to talk to learn faster and develop more confidence as they grow. Communal living also means that they have more kids to play with and more people that they can turn to if they have problems.
It’s good for your mental health – psychologists have found that isolation is a major contributor to mental illness. Living in a community decreases the risk of developing problems, and support from neighbors decreases the risk of existing problems getting worse.
Bruderhof communities exist in both urban and rural areas and are founded on Christian beliefs, with community members endeavoring to live like the first apostles. This means sharing resources and helping each other. The rural communities grow their own food and generate their own income, with all funds going to the community rather than into individual pay. Homes are private but have shared areas such as kitchens, and there are lots of communal areas where people can come together to worship God or simply enjoy one another’s company.
The Lilac estate
In Leeds, England, co-operative housing project the Lilac estate has been up and running since 2013. The name Lilac comes from “low impact living affordable community”, and the idea centers on making sustainable living affordable to everyone. As well as private homes, there is a communal house where community members cook, eat, do their laundry, and socialize. Everything about the infrastructure is designed to save energy, and a shared equity scheme makes it easy for people to buy in as homes become available.
These and other examples of contemporary communities illustrate that community living is alive and well in the modern world. Why not explore it as an option for yourself?