Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Matthew O. Cooper




As improved medical technology lengthens the time that old people are able to remain at home, the need for appropriate housing becomes more important. Housing designed for independent senior citizens should be more than a place to live. Housing options should provide residents with opportunities for friendships and a sense of community. This thesis applies an anthropological interpretation to the process of community building among the members in a senior citizens' housing co-operative located in Toronto, Ontario. Research was based upon participant observation, structured interviews with key informants, and written sources. In addition to identifying factors which promoted or obstructed a sense of community in this particular co-op, comparisons are made to other age-segregated housing options, as described in the literature. Co-op housing is affordable and the opportunities for selfmanagement and participation in decision-making are qualities which lend themselves to the lifestyle of older, retired individuals, with the necessary time and experience. This thesis shows that older people living in co-ops develop informal, reciprocal networks to assist each other to cope with declining physical abilities. These findings also suggest that this phenomenon is likely facilitated by the close friendships formed by living in a co-operative community. A problem exists, however, when the co-op is composed solely of older members who will become increasingly less able to participate in the day-to-day operation of the co-op. This thesis explores the ways in which one senior citizens' co-op has struggled to address this issue. This research indicates that co-operative housing provides many benefits to senior citizens and that there should be more co-op units allocated to them. Co-ops offer opportunities for older people to exercise their independence and autonomy. They also encourage interdependence and mutual self-help. The study of old people in their home environments is a rich subject for further anthropological fieldwork. -

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