The Babayagas House In Paris Is A Feminist, Old Lady Paradise & I Want To Go There
If you’re a woman and the thought of getting old and living in some assisted living center waiting around for board game night terrifies you (it’s terrifying), then the Babayagas house in France might reasonably sound like the best alternative ever. Really, apart from going gray in an expensive beach house somewhere in Malibu, where you can pass the days smoking joints on your balcony with some other old lady neighbor, this communal, feminist house in Montreuil, on the east side of Paris, is the next best option.
Babayagas means “witch” in Slavic mythology and to live in the house, you have to be a feminist and not mind living communally (check), believe that getting old is a good thing (sure), and want to be active and learn new things and all that crap (of course!).
The house took about 15 years to build and is funded by a handful of public agencies. The creator of the concept, Thérèse Clerc, who is 85 years old, said that it was a long and dreadful process. But now it’s all done and there are 25 women living happily ever after in a five-story home, paying cheap rent (around 450 euros for a room). There are 21 rooms reserved for elderly women and 4 for students, just to keep things lively. The ground floor is for activities and a “university” for senior citizens.
The building is also just a few blocks away from a metro station, because the whole point, according to Clerc, is that you need to get out. I kind of like the idea of shunning the popular notion that once you hit a certain age you stop having interests or wanting to do things other than yell at the TV and wait around for the next meal (that’s how I’m spending my 30s, so I fully intend to get it on after 65). It’s not exactly a revolutionary idea, the whole “not rolling over and quietly waiting for death” thing, but this place seems to soundly shatter the shuffle-board-and-tapioca-pudding cliché of “staying active” past ~a certain age~.
Clerc said that she hopes the model will spread to other parts of the world, but that she has no intention to “franchise” the concept. Her only idea is that elderly, communal living as a Babayaga remains female only. If you’ve seen the most recent season of the Bachelorette, this makes a lot of sense. You get 25 men together and they start beating their chests and binge drinking. Women tend to just binge drink and talk about their vaginas, according to what I’ve learned from Nora Ephron movies.
In fact,the Babayagas house is just more proof that French women are cooler than most people. They eat cheese, drink red wine, and just want to hang out like human beings once they get too old too really live alone. Très chic.