Bart Viaene (66) and his wife want to be able to live independently for years to come. With that goal in mind, they bought a square farm, which they renovated into a cohousing where accessibility and solidarity are central.
Next spring, Bart Viaene (66) and his wife want to move from Heverlee to an old square farm. It is located between Landen and Tienen. ‘We now live in a house in Heverlee. There is nothing wrong with that, but that house fits the needs of our children much better: the urban environment with work and school nearby,” says Viaene. ‘We are retired and want to live in a more rural area. Hopefully this will be our last move.’
A kind of Benidorm bastards Viaene mentions his project with the square farm in his response to The Standard Online. ‘It will be a senior event for people our age. A cohousing where everyone has their own kitchen, bathroom and washing machine. There is privacy, but we can help each other with the shopping and maintenance of the garden. This way we can hopefully live independently for years to come.’
The square farm today consists of four large houses with a large courtyard. One of them belongs to Viaene’s brother. The brothers share a passion for old buildings. The home that Viaene and his wife will move into will now be divided into three parts, including a regular home and a care home for people who need more support. A caregiver can live in the care home.
Accessibility is central to the renovation. The doors, bathroom and toilets are very spacious and adapted to wheelchair users. The stairs have plenty of platforms to rest for a while. ‘They are suitable for stair lifts. These can be installed within a week, if necessary.’
Viaene, who worked as an occupational doctor until a few years ago, is rolling up her sleeves in the renovation of the Art Nouveau square farm. ‘We are currently working on a beautiful oak ceiling. We completely dismantled it, cleaned it and treated it.’
To make cohousing successful, you have to give and take, Viaene realizes. ‘We are already co-housing with two eighty-somethings. We have learned that everyone has their dadas: one person cannot tolerate noise, another wants a piece of the garden to keep busy… You have to take that into account, and you cannot be too stubborn.’
It is quite possible that the new neighbors come from their large circle of acquaintances and friends, says Viaene. ‘But that’s not a must. It has to click.’