". . .
All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."
St. Julian of Norwich

When we need a little help . . .

Mutual Care / Support: What it is and What it Isn't:

helping handsOne of the key components of our life together at ElderSpirit is what we have named "mutual care / support."

By this we mean compassionate, neighborly care in times of physical or every-day need, as a result of an accident or onset of sickness. Each of us is encouraged to recruit one or two ElderSpirit neighbors who, working with the member who needs a little help, will assess what needs he or she may have during such a time. These two neighbors will in their turn recruit other neighbors to offer such help on a temporary basis.

We want to make it clear that ElderSpirit at Trailview is an independent living community, and not in any way an Assisted Living facility. No personal or medical care is offered.

One Extraordinary Example of What We Mean by Mutual Care / Support:

One of our ElderSpirit members came to realize that she was growing less and less able to care for herself and more and more dependent upon her friends and neighbors in the ElderSpirit community. She had no living family members who could help with her care. With great consideration she made plans for an eventual move to an assisted living facility. Her mutual support coordinators helped her to research and eventually choose an appropriate facility. When the time came for such a move, these ElderSpirit neighbors became her advocates in dealing with any bureaucratic difficulties.

A More "Typical" Example of Mutual Care / Support, from the point of view of a Neighborly Support Coordinator:

Following hospitalization, a person for whom I am a Neighborly Support Coordinator was in need of someone to do some grocery shopping for her and pick up her mail. I sent out an email about her need to all of those members who had signed up as available for marketing or errands, and in short order she had more offers of help than she could use. Within a few weeks she was back on her feet, and no longer required help.

A Case for Neighborly Support

Community member Marianne Boyle reflects on the ElderSpirit model of Neighborly Support, and ElderSpirit members' experiences with neighborly care. Click here to read her article.

End of Life

As members of ElderSpirit Community at Trailview we are committed to the concept of "aging in community", the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably. A small group of members made the commitment that as far as they are able they will offer non-medical support to each other in their choice to age in community, as long as the member is able to live with such resources, augmented by professional help and family where available.

When members can no longer be cared for in their own homes, we help them find a suitable living arrangement, and as far as possible we stay in contact as advocates for their well-being.

"The only religious way to think of death is as part and parcel of life." Thomas Mann

A Neighborly Support System created by ElderSpirit's Care Committee

ElderSpirit Community (ESC) is member-created, so several committees formed themselves to handle varied aspects of the responsibilities of the community. The Care Committee is one of the ElderSpirit committees. The mission of the Care Committee is to foster wellness and independence in our community. The committee encourages members to use Neighborly Support Coordinators when in need of short-term assistance. If it appears that assistance will be needed for more than two weeks, the member and his or her Neighborly Support Coordinator will discuss the need for further help from within or outside of the ElderSpirit Community.

Because of the strong spiritual orientation of the community, committee members at first focused on showing concern and praying for people who were ill.  ESC is not a long-term care facility, and is not able to give hands-on medical care.  Yet when someone suffered from minor injuries and illnesses, they could encourage each other to provide meals, transportation and help with other tasks. But there was always the danger of caregiver burnout if the same people ended up performing all the volunteer assistance. So the Care Committee developed a plan.  They asked each member to select two Neighborly Care Coordinators, people with whom they felt comfortable and trusted.  When a person becomes ill/injured they call their Coordinators, and the three together tailor a plan for that person’s specific needs and wants. 

Meanwhile the Care Committee created a sign up sheet for neighborly tasks.  Everyone at ElderSpirit was encouraged to sign up for as many duties as they are able and willing to do. Examples of these are transportation, meals, light housekeeping, companionship, marketing, or overnight hospital stays.lk

The Neighborly Care Coordinators look at this list of volunteers and ask individuals to meet specific needs of their ill/injured member.  The person who is ill can focus on rest and recovering while their coordinators work with the community to provide the needed assistance.

The goals of the Care Committee are to offer programs to improve excercise, nutrition, rest, social interaction and sharing of feelings; to encourage members to learn ways of mutual support by asking, offering and receiving help; facilitating ongoing information and health awareness via health notices in our weekly Bulletin, programs and round table discussion.

crocusThe ElderSpirit Model of Neighborly Care

In Abingdon, a small, historic, culturally rich town in southwestern Virginia, an ElderSpirit Community has emerged that provides a working model for resident-created co-housing and for new best practices for “aging in place.” This is very much a community connected by choice.

ElderSpirit is a mixed income community. There are presently 13 privately owned homes and 16 low-income rental apartments on our 3.9-acre campus. A limited number of off site members have been accepted into the community.

Since homes are clustered closely by design, people are available for help, for hatching new ideas or for impromptu conversation. While residents respect one another’s privacy, these opportunities are a powerful antidote for feelings of loneliness and isolation.


Asking, Giving, Receiving

As with most communities like this, the experience at ElderSpirit is that people like to give, but to ask and receive is more difficult. So the value of these actions is discussed often in the context of mutual support: asking, giving, receiving. The relationship between these three abilities is described as one of our "Values":

“Members develop face-to-face relationships through which they offer and receive support.  They express their needs and convictions, listen to each other and strive to act responsibly, considering their good and the good of the other.”

The Care Committee’s philosophy is to encourage members to do for themselves and to ask for what they need.  While volunteers are helpful during illness, they encourage a way for the person to return to personal independence as much as possible and as soon as they are able. 

At times people have been hospitalized and there is understanding that if the ill/injured person wants it, an advocate from the community may be able to spend a night with them.

The Care Committee developed a system of education in that there are monthly speakers, who come after community meals to speak on wellness practices and disease prevention, to encourage health maintenance and good daily health practices.  There have also been round table discussions with members sharing their own experience of coping with aging, limitation, self-care (e.g. good sleep practices, etc.) The educational focus is diet, exercise, stress management, de-cluttered living space and mind, the five wishes, emergency cards, power of attorney, etc. There is a health bulletin board to pass on recent interesting articles and pertinent health information. The Care Committee encourages all members to fill out end of life documents. 

Because this mutual support model works well in this contained intentional community, it is believed that it can be a model of co-created care planning for other communities.

This is the official website of ElderSpirit Community at Trailview. We welcome all, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, elderliness, or national origin.


ElderSpirit Community is entirely smoke-free, including the grounds.