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Baba Yaga's House

End-of-life can be understood as starting earlier or later; community and autonomy is an essential component for a positive experience.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
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Reading Andrew Wong's insights from his post What Happens After 40 - "What part does community and location play in nearing retirement, retirement, group homes, and hospices? Can we redesign community and location for these stages?" - I immediately thought of the Baba Yaga Housing which I learnt about in a previous challenge.  This model resonates with a quote from Hollwich in the article "I see myself creating a strategic alliance with some of my friends. We've already started to talk about it. We want to live in close proximity or even in the same building."

Cross-pollination from the Wellbeing and aging challenge : a post by Satsuko

"The Baba Yaga Housing model is a cohousing model for seniors started by a group of aging feminist activists in the Paris suburb of Montreuil. These women had fought for their rights their whole lives and were not interested in living by someone else’s rules or schedule as they got older. 

The idea is simple: Rather than moving into a seniors home, the women would live together in a large house and take care of one another. No professional staff, like nurses or cooks. They would be free to live as they chose. 

This model was created by Therese Clerc, who, in her 60s, began thinking hard about how she wanted to live in her old age. To learn more about her options, she began visiting seniors homes and talking with residents about their experiences.  

Appalled by what she learned, she rounded up a group of friends and began lobbying French politicians to fund what became the baba yaga’s house. It took 13 years, but the women eventually convinced funders to construct a 6 million dollars 6-story women only seniors home. The women moved in Oct 2012. 

All of this inspired Montrealer Janet Torge to start tinkering with the baba yaga model to see how it could be replicated in Canada. Based on the same co-housing principles of living together without professional staff, Janet’s radical rest home concept is about getting together with a group of friends to find a place to live. Once you’ve moved in, you declare yourselves a radical rest home.  

She is envisioning a Radical Resthome Association, which is currently a work in progress, to help with setting things up, figuring out resources and connecting with the broader rest home network. There is another group called Baba Housing in Canada that was inspired by the Montreuil babas and have ambassadors in many cities across the country.

Note that Therese Clerc, the founder of the Baba Yaga French project died on February 16, 2016.

Check also this article on the French project:

On the Canadian version:

Also connected to this idea of social network  and community (also from the Wellbeing challenge).

Hollwich also notes "And it will be in a building that is entirely diverse in terms of ages, because the worst thing is when you get older, society just provides buildings for "old people." It's not healthy. It's important that when we get older you're mixed with all generations. That's a part of the vitality that helps in life."... Interesting question to explore... 

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

How can we develop more of these models? How can we imagine these communities where you could mix various generations? What can we learn from these models when participants might need some medical support?


Join the conversation:

Photo of kim

What a great story, Anne-Laure, I love that these women fought so hard for something that is inspiring people everywhere to re-think retirement and end of life living arrangements and community support.

It reminds me of the story of Iggy Ignatious who, out of a desire to be near his children but also with friends who understand him, started an Indian retirement community in Florida:

It would be interesting to see how these communities fare when medical support is needed, compared with traditional retirement homes that are run by medical professionals.

Thanks for sharing this story of the Baba Yaga House!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Hi Kim,

glad you liked the story. Thanks for the reference to Iggy Ignatious. It'd be indeed interesting to compare with other models.