Category Archives: Alternative Health

Senior Cohousing for Baby Boomers!

Sue Counts

My friend, Sue Counts, retired three years ago as the Director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Watauga County after more than 40 years in government.  During her tenure, Sue initiated educational programs in the areas of sustainable tourism, sustainable energy, Hispanic outreach, and women in agriculture.  Sue says, “At this point in my life, I’m seeking a better life for the Baby Boomers who are entering that stage of their lives known as ‘the senior years’.”  So, when Dene Peterson, the founder of ElderSpirit Community came to Boone a few weeks ago to talk about her life’s work, Sue was there attending meetings about the possibility of creating such a community in Watauga County, NC.  She graciously shares important information on “Retirement Housing.”


IT’S OFFICIAL!  We are now in the “ERA OF THE GOLDEN BOOMERS!”.  On January 1, 2011 the very first Baby Boomer turned 65, and 10,000 boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 19 years.  This gigantic generation has transformed America as they have passed through every stage of life…..and housing for the elderly will not be any exception.

It's Official

Co-housing communities if you will!  These communities bring together the value of private homes with the benefits of more sustainable living.  That means common facilities and good connections with neighbors.  All in all, they stand as innovative answers to today’s environmental and social problems.

According to Charles Durrett, author of Senior Cohousing Handbook — 2nd Edition, A Community Approach to Independent Living, “No matter how rich life is in youth and middle age, the elder years can bring on increasing isolation and loneliness as social connections lessen, especially if friends and family members move away.  Senior co-housing fills a niche for this demographic — the healthy, educated and proactive adults who want to live in a social and environmentally vibrant community.  These seniors are already wanting to ward off the aging process, so they are unlikely to want to live in assisted housing.  Senior co-housing revolves around custom-built neighborhoods organized by the seniors themselves in order to fit in with their real needs, wants, and aspirations for health, longevity and quality of life.”

Elderspirit Community

The ElderSpirit Community at Trailview in Abingdon, Virginia is the living example of a community of mutual support and late life spirituality.  It is the first mixed-income, mixed ownership Elder Co-Housing Community in the United States and in this capacity it is making its way as it “walks the talk.”  The founder of ElderSpirit Community is Geraldine “Dene” Peterson, a “spry” woman in her 80’s who recently received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the 2011 National Cohousing Conference in Washington, DC.

Dene Peterson

At eighteen, Dene  Peterson left her parents and ten siblings to join a convent. She ultimately chose to leave the religious order, but her spirituality remained deeply rooted. In 1995, at age 65, she created the ElderSpirit Community in Abingdon, Virginia. Inspired by a Danish model, Peterson wanted to form a co-housing retirement community that would allow friends to live together in a collaborative and supportive setting while also offering some of the autonomy of private dwellings.  Peterson also envisioned an alternative to institutional long-term care, a place where community members would have the emotional support of their peers as well as the necessary medical assistance to live out their lives at home.  Using a creative patchwork of funding from public and private resources, Peterson raised $3.5 million, and her vision materialized.  Construction of the 29 residences, common community building, and a prayer room was completed in late spring of 2006 and houses both the moderate and low-income.  The model has gained national attention, and an ElderSpirit outreach extension program in now helping to plan similar communities in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Kansas, and Virginia.

The ElderSpirit Community is dedicated to making possible new opportunities for Elders in the 21st Century.  The ElderSpirit Community values are: To live in a community of diverse spiritual paths; To give and receive support in relationship with neighbors in community; To belong to a community who make the decisions on how they will live together; and To encourage each other to live simply and care for the earth.

A Drop in the Bucket, or Living off the Grid


Our friend, Arjuna da Silva, lives at Earthaven, an aspiring ecovillage in a mountain forest setting near Asheville, North Carolina. Everyone living there is dedicated to caring for people and the Earth by learning, living, and demonstrating a holistic, sustainable culture.  Arjuna helped start Earthaven in 1994, where she’s lived for the past twelve years.  She just moved into her earth & straw temple of a house there. Everyone who knows this beautiful woman over 50, celebrates her spirit.  Here is what she has to share…



Upper West Window

Originally, I wanted to write a piece about what a joke it is to work my way through a day of living on the land, off the grid, learning to grow food, and recycling my waste into valuable (fertilizer) resources.  But after several tries, I realized those choices deserve much more credit and that my inner voice is the one who’d rather let someone else do all the hard stuff.

So, yes, I do start my day by (sometimes anxiously) checking the meter to see how my batteries held up overnight storing solar-accessed electric power; and I do pay attention to the weather report regarding the day’s anticipated power access.  I even pay attention to the calendar that tells me if the stars would treat my tomato seedlings better today than if I waited to plant them on Friday.

When I first started to write this piece, I called my draft, A Drop in the Bucket, intending to convey the double meaning of the “sustainable” life I choose to live.

  • Meaning 1: peeing and pooping in containers so those resources can be utilized as soil amendments (instead of depending on fertilizers that have to be bought and shipped, possibly scraped off another part of the earth).
  • Meaning 2: then there’s the more cynical reference being the effort us folk (who live in this valley) put into recycling, preserving, using renewables, etc., which is just a drop in the regional (let alone global) bucket.

But, today I’d rather tell you I’ve found ways to minimize the things I don’t like (carrying what’s too heavy, smelling what’s too foul, etc.), and feel pretty happy refining my rugged life into something that even fussy people might be able to handle.  In fact, I’m thinking others might choose this path if they could feel the inner rewards that come from paying attention to what we do and what we use to do it.

The  choice to take risks (as if anyone lives without them) and move in what looks like “the right direction” for oneself, one’s neighborhood or the planet, is such an uplifting choice!  The experience of following through on the nitty-gritty details of trial and error with new systems and organic self-reliance is exhilarating at times and is mostly just deeply satisfying.  Maybe you’d like to try it?

Please post your questions and comments here so we can have an open discussion.  Arjuna’s workshop, “Your Enneagram and Your Sub-Personalities” airs August 10-21 at Earthaven.  For more information, please email:  All power to the people!  Make your own, grow your own, and use your own!





Sadhvi Sez: The Best Prices on Vitamins and Herbs


As a woman over 50, I am always looking for deals.  Ok, to tell you the truth, this has nothing to do with my body being over 50; I have always liked being a bargain hunter and finder!  And I am always into sharing.  So here’s the best place I have found to buy quality vitamins and herbs that will save you lots of money; it’s not in any store, it’s online at a site called Swanson Vitamins.


I now buy vitamins twice a year from Swanson, and smile when I go to the health food store and look at the prices of the same vitamins there that cost a lot more money.  Do you have a better place to save money?  If so, please share because these days we are all into simplifying our lives and saving money!

Staying Fit after 50


Everyone I know is either taking yoga, doing yoga, training to become a yoga instuctor, or thinking about all of the above. Growing up there was only Jack Lalanne, so I think the trend is a good sign that we all want to feel good as we get older!
Here is a clip I found that shows my own personal workout that I do right along with the Ross Sisters. It looks a lot harder than it is. Try it yourself and see if you don’t start feeling a lot more flexible in no time!