By Eleanor Zimmerman, Oona Younger, Paul Scharff, M.D., Ann Scharff, Elizabeth Scherer, Jairo Gonzalez, Yoko Conlon, Catherine Commerford
Work-Based, Intergenerational, Long-Term Care for Elders
The Fellowship Community is an intentional community that “walks its talk” every day. Since 1966, the Fellowship Community has existed with the intention of “serving needs.” We work not so much for money, but more for meeting needs that extend beyond ourselves. This type of living/work situation attracts those who have become disillusioned with the mainstream culture for one reason or another, as well as those who are striving to find other ways to be of service in the world. It is a real opportunity to create a situation that can work for all concerned, regardless of one’s age or personal circumstance—provided that one comes with an active interest in being of service. Each day presents opportunities to be of help, show compassion, work through mistakes, and ultimately strive towards a greater goodness.
The Fellowship Community is a work-based, intergenerational long-term care community. A real search has evolved for 46 years to seek the redemption of work—making work the basis of service and learning, leading to wisdom and even love. It is a circumstance that can function as it does because of three laws passed by the New York State Legislature permitting variances for activities in our Elder Home. The community, with its activities, serves as the “program” for the “home.” We are permitted to care for elders through aging, illness, and death, provided hospitalization is not required.
One of the county’s four remaining farms is situated on site, providing milk, eggs, and vegetables, and an opportunity to work together to make sustainable agriculture a reality. There is farm education and outreach towards suburban NYC school groups who learn, through hands-on work in the soil, that food doesn’t always come from the grocery store. Our farm is alive with gardens, meadows, forest, and animals; the community is the consumer of foods that are raised in a holistic way.
We share common meals where menus are created by a menu committee, including special diets in the case of unique needs. People of all ages attend common meals. Cooking challenges us to meet nutritional needs of young and old, as well as those in between. We cook our fresh-grown food as much as possible. We purchase organically grown food substances, and as little from the conventional market as possible. We cook, teach, and learn the art of large-scale home cooking. We learn very much from each other. The effort is to balance leaves, roots, colors, textures, and tastes in order to have a common meal to nourish our bodies, souls, and spirits with a sense for a large family. Use of our quality farm produce cuts the cost of food for those that eat in our central facility, Hilltop House.
Our thriftiness is important because we receive no state, federal, or local funding. Candle making is an example of a community activity where all ages can be active, and the candles can be sold at our outlet. The candleshop produces hand-dipped beeswax and paraffin candles. The candle maker is the one who transforms earthly, plant, and animal substances into candles that are created to give warmth and light to nourish the soul of man. This is the creative activity that heals and brings joy in our work together. The candles can also be sold outside this immediate distributor.
Crucial for us is the way of working based on the very significant social art where a continual effort at the threefolding of the social process has been worked with. We have striven to work with the profound indications given by Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual scientific research with regard to the social art within threefolding. The results of his research are known as the wisdom of the human being, or anthroposophy.
What is here?
Hilltop House and the surrounding buildings provide an alternative to traditional elder care, one that recognizes that elders are useful, inspiring members of the community, willing and able to contribute their life experience.
The Otto Specht School is an independent school for children who are challenged by a standard classroom atmosphere.
Mercury Press publishes works by, and inspired by the forward thinking of Rudolf Steiner.
A medical office offers conventional, homeopathic, and anthroposophic care to help a person find the way to wellness.
A weavery and pottery provide an opportunity to work harmoniously together to create beautiful pieces that work to inspire.
Fresh baked bread is made in the bakery and served as part of the meals and snacks offered each day.
The Hand and Hoe is a small café and shop that sells work made in the various areas to the larger community one day each week.
An older member shares her perspective on living here for the past six years:
“This is a place where people are working together towards a goal of caring within community. The Fellowship is anthroposophically based with a living quality that emerges from this work. As an older person (I am 89 years old), one can live a full life here with music, eurythmy, art, and other creative pursuits as part of the everyday. Anthroposophical life is rich for those who want it, though it isn’t forced upon anyone. I love being surrounded by all ages, especially the children. One can move into the last stages of life in a graceful manner here, knowing you’re among friends, and will be cared for by friends.”
Care encompasses a great deal. There is hands-on care for ailments that need tending. This activity is the basis for the relationships to others. Equally important is soul care, a very delicate caring. We are all enlivened by being in a community of different ages and generations. Elders are helped to retain a sense of wholeness by looking to the future. The voice of a caregiver’s infant gives a home-like atmosphere. A caregiver feels useful serving real-life needs as a basis for common goals and basic truths. Caregivers learn how much human beings need each other.
Warmth, light, nourishment, and care—these are the pillars that sustain us in our work.
The Fellowship Community is located approximately 25 miles north of New York City. www.fellowshipcommunity.org
This article was made possible with contributions by Eleanor Zimmerman, Oona Younger, Paul Scharff, M.D., Ann Scharff, Elizabeth Scherer, Jairo Gonzalez, Yoko Conlon, and Catherine Commerford.