Return to Elderspirit 2015

Elderspirit is one of the earliest Senior Cohousing communities in the country. It is internationally known and respected. My own journey would not be the same if it weren’t for the model that Elderspirit has provided for me and for this movement.

I recently had the wonderful experience of visiting Elderspirit with two friends from my community. My last visit was in 2007 so I was really looking forward to observing the changes and of course, looking forward to visiting with its Founder, Dene Petersen. I wrote about looking forward to my visit and looking back in a recent post here, if you want to see more.

When we arrived at the Elderspirit site we were able to witness the growth of landscape, the community, and its population — all changes from the last visit in 2007. It is both comforting and inspiring to see the seeds of this garden grown into colorful blooms, both literally and metaphorically.

Our experience began with a lovely lunch with Dene in the cute little town of Abingdon, Virginia.


Elderspirit is unique when it comes to the world of cohousing communities. There are 17 off-site members, 16 renters, and 13 owners. The off-site members belong to the community and participate in the culture but live nearby instead of on the property. There are 27 total dwellings in the community limits along the Virginia Creeper Trail.ECreepertrail

In the afternoon we were invited and attended Vespers, a 30-minute nondenominational gathering facilitated by several members of the community. They shared a remembrance of one of their friends and their experience at her memorial service. Everyone was asked to participate with memories their own. Because Elderspirit was founded on spiritual principles it was great to attend in the Spirit House and share a day in their life.ESpiritHouse

The community dinner that evening was another highlight for me. It was 2015Elederspiritdinnerprepared by a three-person team. Meals are split up that way as the teams cook two dinners a month as part of the rotation which, in turn, enhances community building. We were served a decadent Eggplant Parmesan, a salad, and a peach crumble. We felt lucky to be included. We were introduced by our host and experienced a warm welcome from our dinner companions who conversed opening with us.  Part of the cohousing experience centers on coming together for meals, usually dinner, as a ritual breaking of the bread. It is a practice that is both fulfilling and filling.

We were invited to stay in the guest rooms of the common house which were lovely, clean, and well appointed. The community has a system in place for the host to take care of laundry and making the beds if we contribute $25 per night.

These systems, including the spiritual community, shared cooking duties, and guest accommodations have been put in place not only from observing other groups but also as an outgrowth of the creativity of the community members themselves. They make the decisions about how to live, work, and play together. Today this is exemplified by how well the community works together while forging new paths and leaving a legacy.

We were welcomed easily and found ourselves a true part of the community while we were there.

Before we left, we enjoyed a little more sightseeing in the town of Abingdon and shopping at the local art coop. Coming from an artist community myself I love the opportunity to see local talent. One of the draws to the area is the resident theater, the Barter Theater. We saw a matinee which was funny, uplifting and demonstrated the importance of art in this town of only 7800 people.

EBarter Theater2

Our early morning departure left the community enjoying coffee on the terrace in the common house courtyard.


We were sorry to leave this little slice of heaven in the Appalachian Mountains but it was time to return to our own corner of Appalachia in Asheville.


To learn more about Elderspirit watch this video from 2011 that shows more of the story.

Women For Living in Community