A Joseph Rowntree Foundation research study by Maria Brenton was presented to an audience of older women in London. This introduced the concept of senior cohousing as developed in The Netherlands, combining the findings of a research study commissioned from Maria by the then Housing Corporation.

A group of six older women who already knew each other attended this workshop and decided that they would act on the Dutch example and create their own older women’s cohousing community in London.

Prime movers were Madeleine Levius, who died in 2005, and Shirley Meredeen who, today, in her late 80's, is the single founder member still left in the OWCH group. The first meeting of what became the OWCH group met in Shirley’s home in August 1998. In 2017, in memory of Madeleine, and after discussion with her family, OWCH set up a ‘Madeleine Fund’ to provide help to any OWCH member who might find herself in need.