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For The Aging, A Commune-like Alternative In NY

By JIM FITZGERALD

CHESTNUT RIDGE, N.Y. (AP) â¿¿ At the Fellowship Community's adult home, workers are paid not according to what they do, but what they need; aging residents are encouraged to lend a hand at the farm, the candle shop or the pottery studio; and boisterous children are welcome around the old folks.

It's a home for the elderly in a commune-like setting â¿¿ 30 miles from Manhattan â¿¿ that takes an unusual approach, integrating seniors into the broader community and encouraging them to contribute to its welfare.

"It's a great place to live, and I think there's probably no better place in the world to die," says Joanne Karp, an 81-year-old resident who was supposed to be in her room recovering from eye surgery but instead was down the hall at the piano, accompanying three kids learning to play the recorder.

The 33-bed adult home is at the center of Fellowship Community, a collection of about 130 men, women and children founded in 1966 that offers seniors â¿¿ including the aging baby boom generation â¿¿ an alternative to living out their final years in traditional assisted-living homes or with their grown sons and daughters.

At most adult homes, a resident in decline would eventually have to go to a hospital or nursing home. But Fellowship has an exemption from state law that allows dying residents to stay there because "people have wanted to stay, and we have wanted to keep them," said administrator Ann Scharff, who helped found the community.

"We provide a space in which people can prepare to die in a way that is accepted and nourishing to them and fraught with meaning," Scharff said. "It's not something you run away from, but it's part of the whole spectrum of life, just as birth is part of life and is prepared for."

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