Maria Brenton – UKCN’s First Ambassador on Senior Cohousing

Statement from Stephen Hill – Chair of UK Cohousing Network. The next board meeting in July will be both a very happy and a sad occasion. Happy because the Older Women’s Cohousing project (OWCH) of which Maria had been such an important part, will be on the point of occupation, and sad because we shall be saying goodbye to her, after nearly a decade of service. She joined the board on its formation in 2007.

Maria Brenton
Maria Brenton

That is going to be a big wrench, as the rest of the board are youngsters and newcomers by comparison! Maria has combined the academic rigour of her research with her passion and commitment to helping other people realise their ambitions for senior cohousing. I have shared a number of platforms with her, and I know how hard it has sometimes been for her to sustain that enthusiasm. It is so hard to understand why it has been so difficult to engage policymakers and practitioners in the UK, when senior cohousing is such a normal part of the housing market and housing policy landscape in other countries. Things are beginning to change, but still too slowly for the many people who already want to do it, and for the many who would like to, if only they knew more about it.

Luckily for us all, not only has she been a tireless advocate in the past, she is not hanging up her clogs just yet! It’s quite hard to think of anyone for whom the word ‘retiring’ could be more inappropriate. Just this week, she has been working with ex-pat Japanese Elders living in the UK, and is deeply involved, of course, in the official opening of the OWCH project, later in the autumn. At the end of June, she’ll be speaking at the RIBA on cohousing. We hope too that she will continue to help us on the national steering group for the senior cohousing work that the Tudor Trust are interested in supporting. We’ll need to borrow from her fund of determination, sense of fun and mischief, to carry that through.

Dear Maria, welcome to the post of first Ambassador for UKCN; a role that we are sure you will make your own. We send you much love and thanks from the Board and I am sure from all those with whom you have shared your knowledge and wisdom over the years. We wish you and your partner, Ros, the happiest of ‘retirements’.