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A formula for combating loneliness

Our member Nancy McCormick won a Toastmasters award for this speech about cohousing. We knew you would want to read it!

Remember the Surgeon General’s health crisis advisory on May 3 of last year? I don’t.

But the US was and is suffering an epidemic according to our Nation’s Doctor.

I know you’re thinking, “Which epidemic?”  So are the two doctor friends I quizzed.


Heart disease?



No, none of the above.  

However, this particular ailment is a factor in all of the above.

It’s the crisis of loneliness.

Even before Covid, half of U.S. adults reported feeling lonely often.

For those in this category, the risks are pretty alarming:

29% increased risk of heart disease

32% increased risk of stroke

50% increased risk of dementia

double the risk of depression

The Surgeon General issued a Six-Part Strategy for combatting this epidemic.

I’m sure no one’s read it.

We all have our own formulas – whether we need more alone time or more together time.

It’s all about creating the right mix.

In fact, I’ve invested a tremendous amount of my time (not to mention net worth) into creating the right mix.

But before I tell you what that is, I’ll give you some background numbers.

25 - 5 - 2 - 0. I’ve lived in Houston 25 years. During those 25 years, I’ve lived in five different places: 3 apartments, 1 townhouse, 1 freestanding house. During those 25 years, I’ve had exactly TWO really good close-neighbor friends. Jessica and I lived in neighboring apartment buildings. But we met at Thursday night tennis at our complex. Yan and I shared a front staircase to our townhomes. With these two neighbors, I shared house keys, meals, holidays, road trips …. We were each others’ trusted confidantes.

But Yan moved to California five years ago.

Jessica moved to Colorado 15 years ago.

And that leaves me today not knowing any of my next-door neighbors very well.

Offline friendships take so much effort. I’ve met so many good friends through diverse Houston communities. But we’re so spread out and pressed for time. 

Consistently spending meaningful time with good friends is extremely challenging for me.. And that’s what led me to cohousing, which has its roots in Denmark.

Cohousing is officially defined as an intentional community of private homes clustered around community spaces. Each home has traditional amenities, including a private kitchen. Most owners’ kitchens overlook an expansive central courtyard with an edible garden. The hub of the complex, the common house, features a large kitchen and dining area where neighbors can easily share meals. Almost all of the condos have sight lines to the common house.

Connection is everything in cohousing. In fact, cohousing turns upside down the normal house-hunting process. Instead of location, location, location, the catchword is community. My future cohousing neighbors are always looking out for each other. They’ve organized meal deliveries for cohousers who have fallen sick. They’ve housed each other during power outages.  The list goes on and on.

Cohousers place an exceptionally high value on community – they really care about being good neighbors despite not yet living next door. What drove me personally to cohousing was my college experience. I loved sharing meals and just hanging out with my hallmates with no forethought. It’s so easy when your friends are only steps away. My college friends still know me better than anyone else. We would still do anything for each other. But they live thousands of miles away!

For those who question whether cohousing is worth uprooting for, raw numbers say a lot. Not just the health-risk percentages above. Last year, Denmark, where cohousing is widely embraced, ranked as the second happiest country on earth. The US ranked 16th!

Later this year when Houston cohousers move in, I’m predicting an upward swing in my own numbers: From zero just-down-the-hall neighbors as good friends to double-digit neighbors as good friends.



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That is beautifully expressed Nancy!

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