Elderberry: Senior Cohousing Among Gardens, Farm Animals and Nature

As the number of senior cohousing communities continues to grow, seniors have more choice in the type and location of a community that best fits their lifestyle. Elderberry, a cohousing community near Durham, North Carolina, is unique in that it is designed for seniors who want to live in a rural community as they grow older, caring for and supporting one another in creating a community homestead among gardens, farm animals, and nature, on a path toward more ecological living. Most senior cohousing is developed in urban areas that provide “walkability” as a key feature. For individuals who wish to be close to stores, restaurants, and entertainment, this is an excellent choice. But for seniors who prefer country life to city life, the woods, farms, trails, wildlife, gardens, animals, and starry skies are worth the occasional drive to

Elderberry is a sister community to Potluck Farm, an intentional community formed in 1990 by friends who wanted to live and farm together. After 25 years together, some members, now in their 60s and 70s, were looking to downsize, but did not want to move away from their family and friends in the community. So a few members of Potluck Farm purchased adjacent land to create a senior cohousing community, giving Potluck Farm members the option of downsizing right next door. A unique result of this is that Elderberry is adjacent to a multi-­‐generational community, and the two communities will share a Common House, and potentially other amenities such as a pool, pastures, workshops, farm equipment and miles of hiking trails.

Elderberry was incorporated in March of 2011 and is currently in the construction phase. The 18-­‐home community is self-­‐developed and self-­‐funded. The first two homes were completed in 2013 and two more in 2014. The rest of the homes will begin construction in 2015 (4 lots are still available). The Common House is near completion with occupancy expected in early 2015. Elderberry members are already enjoying fresh produce from on-­‐site gardens and eggs from a small flock of chickens. Sites for pastures, a dog park, and a greenhouse have been identified. The 10-­‐acre site was an early 1900s farmstead, and a few of the barns, as well as a hand-­‐ hewn log house, have been preserved and will be renovated for guest housing, workshops, and storage. In addition, Elderberry and Potluck Farm jointly own an 11.5-­‐acre site, accessible by trail, purchased solely for the stunning view it provides. At Elderberry, our values are in some ways similar to other senior cohousing communities, but we are, in many ways, unique. We welcome visitors and are happy to share our experiences and lessons learned with those interested in creating or self-­‐developing a cohousing community.

For more information, visit us at www.elderberrycohousing.com.

Elderberry Values:

Whole Hearted Living We practice living together with kindness, generosity, empathy, compassion, and honesty, using consensus as a tool to both make decisions and to grow in our ability to see the gift in ourselves and each other.

Caring for Each Other We relate to our community as home and to each other as family; we care for each other in times of need as a privilege and source of joy rather than an obligation.

Living in a “Beehive” of Activity We create a rich and engaging environment for as long as we live. We eagerly share our skills and passions, learn new skills, participate in discussions, make music, create events and projects, share meals and try things we’ve never done before.

Living in Beauty Our reverence for nature, beauty and the arts, and the gifts of this earthly place keep us amazed and grateful. We emulate nature in our use of the land, creating garden habitats for birds, butterflies, and pollinators, using methods and materials that minimize harm, providing special places of beauty for inspiration and spiritual reflection.

Physical Beings We know that physical activity will keep our bodies working and give us joy; we create an environment that calls us to action – gardening, dancing, yoga, walking, laughing, and playing.

A Handmade Life We engage in the real and productive work of growing food, raising animals, preserving food, making tools, as often as possible creating what we need rather than buying it.

The World Outside Our Boundaries We seek ways to contribute to and engage with our neighbors and the wider community; we are an open-hearted, welcoming community for each others’ friends and families who come to visit



Category: stories from the trenches


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