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For The Aging, A Commune-like Alternative In NY

Situated on a hilltop in suburban Rockland County, Fellowship looks a bit like a village out of the past. Besides the farm and the pottery and candle shops, there are a dairy barn with 10 cows, a print shop, a metal shop, a "weavery" and a wood shop.

The 33-acre farm goes beyond organic, running on "biodynamic," or self-sustaining, principles, as much as a small farm can, said Jairo Gonzalez, the head gardener. Solar panels sparkle on the barn roof, and cow manure becomes compost.

Most of the adult home workers live in buildings surrounding it, as do about 35 independent seniors who don't yet need the services but plan to live out their days in the community. At meals, elders, workers and children dine together.

"We don't subscribe to 'Children should be seen and not heard,'" Scharff said.

Caring for the elderly is the main activity, but all the workers also have other responsibilities.

"In a typical work week, someone will be inside helping the elderly, meaning bringing meals, bathing, meds," said Will Bosch, head of the community's board of trustees. "But they'll also be doing building and grounds maintenance, planting, harvesting, milking."

Organizers decline to call it a commune but concede the spirit is similar. The philosophy behind it is called anthroposophy, "a source of spiritual knowledge and a practice of inner development," according to The Anthroposophical Society in America.

Elder care is practiced in somewhat similar fashion in at least two other anthroposophy-inspired communities: Camphill Ghent in Chatham, N.Y., and Hesperus Village in Vaughan, Ontario, near Toronto.

The area around Fellowship has several other organizations with ties to anthroposophy, including a private school, a bookstore and a co-op grocery that sells some of the community's crops. Fewer than half the adult home residents at Fellowship Community have any connection to anthroposophy, at least when they enter, Scharff said.

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