from Keenan’s Twin Oaks blog

Posted 19th April 2014 by 

The grand opening party for Twin Oaks’ hospice, Appletree, was April 11th 2014.

It’s been a long journey.  The process for Appletree  (then, “the hospice addition”) started right after Kat Kinkade, the founder of Twin Oaks, died on July 3rd 2008.  Josie, Kat’s daughter, observed that Kat had “Rolls Royce” from twin Oakers care while she was declining at Twin Oaks. That care came at some emotional cost.  A couple of Twin Oakers had pretty serious emotional breakdowns due to caring for Kat, or being around her as she declined. Additionally, many caregivers who were sleeping on a mat in Kat’s room suffered hurt backs and various other physical ailments.   We collectively concluded that if we want to have people stay at Twin Oaks as they decline, and not have it be traumatic to the rest of the community, we need to have a space that isn’t in the middle of an SLG—that is, we need to build a place specifically designed for end-of-life care.

The goal behind Appletree is to keep elders in the heart of the community as they age and decline.  So the hospice was designed as an addition to Nashoba, Twin Oaks’  main handicapped accessible SLG, which, in turn, is close to ZK, Twin Oaks’ dining hall and community center.

Nashoba, where Appletree was added

The guiding principle for the addition was to make it “nice,” that is, built to a quality standard to provide a pleasant environment for people who are dying.  And also to make sure that it’s comfortable for more mainstream caregivers, family members, and friends to be able to visit and stay.

The Louisa building department granted Twin Oaks a building permit for the addition in 2010, so the building of Appletree has taken 4 years.  That is probably longer than necessary due to stopping active construction for about a year for cash flow reasons.

I was the main mover of the process starting in 2008,  and I have been the honcho of the building part as well, so I have had this hospice addition on my front burner for six years now. Historically, a building project burns out the honcho, often to the point of leaving the community.  I have tried to be conscious of that unhealthy pattern, so I have tried to think of this as an opportunity and, specifically, to not be too attached to outcomes around Appletree, or to think of the building as “mine” just because I’m the honcho.  I’m very pleased and proud of how it’s come out and, as anyone who knows me well is aware, I’m really quite ready to be done with the construction part of it; six years is long enough.

Throughout most of the actual construction, the crew was Rowan, Arlo, and Elijah.  Rowan and Arlo started working on the building when they were 14 and 17. On April 11th Rowan turned 18.  It has been a joy and a privilege to have that able crew to work with—to see them gain skills and confidence, and to generally observe them growing from being boys to being men.

The first stages of the building, leveling the hillside and pouring the concrete were very stop-and-go.  It was hard to schedule people, and the uncooperative weather caused lots of slow-downs.  But once the concrete slab was poured, Elijah, Arlo, Rowan and I committed to doing a push to get the building itself up as quickly as possible.   We collectively cleared our schedules, and then did a construction boot camp.  Our goal was to work every day, for as long as there was light each day and to not stop until the building was “completed,” that is, the framing was up, the trusses on the framing, plywood on the trusses, metal on the roof, the siding on, and the doors and windows installed—that is, it would, from the outside, look like a completed building.  My very optimistic estimate to the young lads was that we could, if the weather held, possibly get all that done in a month.  The weather was perfect, the young lads worked hard; we built that whole house in two-and-a-half-weeks.  Yes, weeks.  Really.  Ask people who were here.

The guys took a break while wiring was run and insulation installed.  But then we got the band back together, did another blitz, and put up all of the sheetrock. Since those heady days, Elijah, Rowan, and Arlo have found other work and followed other interests, although Arlo did almost all the interior painting once the “mudding” was done.

It is either ironic or appropriate that the first use of this hospice was for the birth of Sylvia, before the addition was even all the way completed.  And now Aubby is planning to give birth there (she’s due any day now). Maybe we shouldn’t call it a hospice.

However, I like that the creation of Appletree as a hospice tangibly demonstrates that Twin Oaks is planning on sticking around.  Appletree shows that Twin Oaks is investing in our members and in our future.  It is sort of incidental, but no less meaningful, that the building for Twin Oaks’ elders was built by Twin Oaks’ teens.

Far from feeling burned out, here, at the conclusion of this project, I’m happy at how well Appletree has come out.  I really value having had the opportunity to work with Elijah, Arlo, and Rowan over these years.  It has been great having my main work area be fifty yards from my SLG.  I have felt a lot of trust from the community and support from people throughout this whole project. During much of the building of Appletree, it has felt like a blessing to me, and now that it’s done, it feels like the project is a success.



Communities Conference Workshops

Here is the workshop and partial presentation schedule for the upcoming Twin Oaks Communities Conference.  The below links are to blog posts on these elements.  There is a posted full program (with short descriptions for every workshop are in the newly published program).  

Cambia lunch

Saturday September 1st

9:30 to noon

1:30 to 3 PM

4 to 5:30 PM

Sunday September 2

9:30 to 11

There is still time to register for this amazing event.  Twin Oaks Community is hosting this event in central Virginia Aug 31st thru Sept 2.  There is also great Labor Day (Sept 3) program at Cambia Community, less than one mile from the Twin Oaks Conference site.

TO 50 group shot
Twin Oaks 50th Anniversary – Circa 2017
Communities Conference Workshops

Full Circle Proposal

Dear Twin Oaks:

Corb here…   I’m an ex-member (circa ’79-84), former farmer, EC wizard, cook, meta and papa (Leah was born in Morningstar in ’82).  I was a planner when my partner, Linda announced she and Leah were leaving.   So I left, but part of me has never been the same.  TO has significantly shaped how I run one of the most envied teams of engineers at UVa Medical Center.  As I get ready to say goodbye to over 30 years at UVa, I’m determined to return to community.

This Spring, as I was caring for my 89 yr. old Mom who got a new hip, it dawned on me that here I am…

  •  a community-loving ex-hippie in love with a super-long-term T.O. member who’s vowed to always live in community
  •  a privileged white male with better than average earning/saving opportunities
  •  keenly aware that the outside world’s approach to elder care has major defects

…surely there must be others who resemble at least some of the above and are willing to pitch-in to build an intergenerational, elder-friendly community with the goal of becoming an FEC community?

I’m writing to propose that Twin Oaks and “Full Circle Community”,  (which Aurora DeMarco, TO member Jeli’s Mom, and I are founding), jointly purchase the Purcell property with the intent to:

–        allocate some land for the expansion of T.O.

–        allocate the rest of the land for “Full Circle”.

Full Circle can likely afford the property ourselves, but we understand that TO has interest in acquiring at least a buffer beyond the graveyard (perhaps more) and thus we hope to purchase the land in a mutually beneficial manner, with a deeded division.

The ~100 acre tract in question was logged last winter. It is adjacent to T.O., and drew several Twin Oakers’ interest in acquiring it. After a community meeting, the Planners reportedly did a survey of the community that found significant support for acquiring at least part of the property using a combination of donations and TO’s resources.

A group of members (Keenan, McCune, Trout, Paxus, Puma for Planners) and I have been meeting regularly most of 2017 to sort out the many facets of this opportunity. We hope to come to terms on a property boundary before any purchase takes place, and execute a contract to legally divide the tract as agreed, upon purchase.

Map #1 –  How the adjacent properties nestle…


The aerial above shows a proposed pond site, the “Emu neighbors” and accurately depicts Tupelo in-line with the northernmost border of Purcell/Full-Circle.  The county’s hand-drawn rendering on the next map doesn’t pretend to reflect accurate placement of TO’s existing buildings.

Map #2

Yellow, brown & blue dashes mark 3 possible borders between T.O and “Full-Circle” Communities.

Green shading = most level, Orange = next-most level, Burgundy = medium sloping

Blue proposed pond = ~3 ac.

Light blue ovals = possible construction sites. Larger = community site, smaller= 1-3 unit home sites.


The second map shows 3 possibilities for future boundaries between Twin Oaks and Full Circle, who is flexible about how much land Twin Oaks may choose to buy.


Here is a Twin Oaks member’s synopsis of the three scenarios for TO acquiring part of the land:

  1. 20 acres: This would buy us up to the crest of the ridge, and some of the best sunsets you will see at Twin Oaks. You can think of this is a buffer if you like.  This could also be used as agricultural land in the near future, as tree removal has already occurred. Perhaps a combination of hay fields or future increased whey spraying from increased Tofu production and/or pasture.
  1. 40 acres: From there, our land would sweep down the hill to a small, stream that originates on the property and tends to flow year-round.  Crossing the stream, the boundary would encompass a group of small, isolated knolls with a lot of forest still standing. With access to small timbers, sunlight, shelter, clean water, low and high ground, and being relatively isolated yet nearby, this area would be ideal for a future primitive living group. If a footpath were extended to this area, it would be approximately the same distance from the Courtyard as Tupelo.
  1. 60 acres: In this scenario, Twin Oaks would surround Full Circle on 3 sides. Additional open areas with some forest and some building potential on W. Old Mtn. Rd. Twin Oaks would border some larger tracts of neighbors’ land that may become available in the future as part of creating a larger “neighborhood of intentional community”. Possible recreation path from the river to W. Old Mtn. Rd. along the stream that divides us from our neighbors. Hold section for possible sale to future community venture.

There are, of course other possibilities, including “do nothing” and “buy it all”.

So that we are moving forward in a way that continues to be consistent with the desires of the community, and in order to narrow down to realistic possibilities, we are asking for

community comment at this time. Your thoughts will help this process along to a

reasonable conclusion. Clarifying questions are welcome, as this paper has skipped over many specifics that you might be interested in knowing.


A Recent “Help Wanted” sign seen in the area:

Wanted: Fun-loving, hard-working people, experienced with group/community governance, ideally current or former F.E.C. members with at least modest funding, who are interested in pursuing land acquisition adjacent to Twin Oaks with the purpose of building, governing, serving and sharing per a variant on the following:    (Here’s one vision… far from cast in stone!)

  1. Building:
  • Residences – private and shared. Over time, shift to all community-owned.
  • Common land, hopefully including:
    • light agricultural
    • recreational (i.e. walking trails)
    • pond to service both of the above
  • Income-sharing community, focused on supporting elders in their later stages of life, likely following the co-housing model with elements of a “Generations of Hope”-like mission to serve those in need.
  • Hybrid, off-grid energy production systems centered around solar electrolysis of hydrogen +fuel cells.
  1. Governing: Sociocracy seems one of the best models to guide us. We’ll build a three-tier structure to both participation and governance incorporating private, non-profit and income-sharing:
  • Private residences for initial land owners who contribute labor and capital to the above building efforts, and the following operational efforts. All members donate time in service of others.
  • A non-profit entity whose mission is:
    • Formally: to research, document and teach best practices regarding these community resources:

– Ourselves, including our elderly – supporting aging in place as long as possible.

– Our land, including sustainably providing food, energy, recreation and wildlife.

– Our residents and staff who provide the care for the above.

    • Informally: to maintain the standards of care, policies and cultural continuity as we provide for both out patients and the land.
  • An income-sharing community of:
    • Permanent members and floating residents from other FEC communities who comprise the staff that live and work together, caring for the community and each other.
    • Residents receiving care who, if from non-FEC communities, pay a sliding-scale entrance and monthly fees and if from FEC communities, enjoy a waiver of costs commensurate with their home FEC community’s participation in the labor pool.
  1. Serving and Sharing:

Sharing and caring feels good; growing old, in isolation and pain doesn’t. Living in balance with Nature is essential to survival. A caring and ecologically sensitive community that’s accessible to people of all ages and economic backgrounds sounds like more than a mission statement, it sounds like home.

I hope to build upon the best we’ve learned in community as we prepare to accommodate those that we’ll all become: our elders.  If you are interested, please contact Aurora Demarco and Corb Ardrey at:

There are over 23 (non T.O.) people eagerly waiting to read the next installment of the Full Circle update…  let’s give them something to talk about!


Thank you!

– Corb Ardrey

Full Circle Proposal

Every Eight Seconds

from the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) website Posted on by Aurora DeMarco

“The problems of aging present an opportunity to rethink our social and personal lives in order to ensure the dignity and welfare of each individual.” —Daisaku Ikeda

Every eight seconds, another baby boomer turns 65. Seven in 10 of us will need home care assistance at some point in our lives, due to disability or the simple process of getting older. Much of the time this reality is described in negative terms; the sentiment is “what a burden to society this will pose.” However, this situation can offer a great opportunity to once again advance the idea of communal living. Baby boomers spawned many social change movements that shifted our thinking on issues of personal freedom and choosing alternatives to the traditional nuclear family. Boomers may also be the generation to lead the way for changes in how we age in our society.

According to Caring Across Generations, a national advocacy organization to improve elder care in this country, we need to develop a comprehensive plan to make sure that we all age in dignity and are cared for. Currently, elder care is geared to those people who live in traditional families where there is a spouse and/or children who can provide and care for their sick and elderly loved ones. Often paid home health aides care for the sick and elderly in home-based care. Many also end up in institutional-based care settings such as assisted living or retirement homes or hospitals. Unlike the spirit of connectedness and caring of intentional communities, these institutions often strip seniors of their rights to self-determination and governance. Many arrive there as a last resort, frail and no longer able to provide their self-care needs. Many do not want to burden their family members and some have no family members at all.

Intentional communities offer an alternative to the isolation and loneliness that many seniors experience as they age and need more assistance. With fewer and fewer people coming from traditional families, now is the time to reinforce that intentional communities can be an antidote to social isolation and loneliness.

Every Eight Seconds

Fortunately there are existing models, like kommune-niederkaufungen, which generates income with its elder care worker collective (, and the Fellowship Community, whose elder “members” contribute about 35 percent of the community’s income in the form of different fees ( Furthermore, existing communities are carving their own paths towards care as members age and need care. My daughter is part of the care team for the elderly and disabled in her intentional community, which has built a separate building that offers care from birth to hospice when their members need it. Moreover, new communities are forming with the intention of offering elder care to their members.

At the 2014 Twin Oaks Communities Conference a group of us met to discuss how to provide elder and hospice care in intentional communities. We created a list of ideas for helping existing communities and for advancing the idea of intentional communities as a new model for senior living. It is by no means comprehensive, but rather a beginning of a much larger conversation about providing elder care in intentional communities.

1. Encourage communards to have advanced directives and co-caring agreements in case communards need elder/hospice care. These directives/agreements can help avoid conflict later on. This may be especially true for those who have families who may disagree with their choices. Many people have chosen to live in community because they have different values and lifestyle preferences than their family of origin or family of procreation. Advanced directives and co-caring agreements give individuals the opportunity to spell out clearly their wishes on medical interventions and how they wish to be cared for. One communard’s son called the police on her when she notified him of her choice of voluntary starvation and dehydration to expedite her dying process—a legal practice which does not contribute to suffering among the dying and might actually contribute to a comfortable passage from life. Having her wishes put in writing and shared with her family members might have helped her family members understand and respect her choice to die as she wanted.

2. Put together a work exchange for people wanting to visit communities in exchange for helping to care for disabled/elderly communards. Volunteering time in exchange for room and board is a good way to travel inexpensively. Living in community offers opportunities to explore different regions, socialize, and be of service. Being part of a care team is one way to volunteer and could be a way for communities to have their labor needs met. Many people want to put their big toe in the intentional community waters and this may offer a clear way to volunteer and be of service, while also experiencing communal living.

3. Develop an exchange program with other communities who can send caregivers to help with hospice care/elder care when communities are in need. Often various communities send help to fellow communities when there is a need. One communard spoke about his wife’s end-of-life care. She was a beloved member of the intentional communities movement and when she needed end-of-life care a few members traveled from their home communities to assist her. This is a great way for communities to support one another.

4. Reach out to networks of retired nurses who may want to still practice nursing in the more pleasant settings that communities offer as opposed to the harsh conditions of institutional-based care. Most nurses I speak with say they love nursing, but dislike their workplace environments. In the community I live in, a long-term community member who is in her 90s is cared for by three home health aides. All three women are valued members of the community and enjoy the openness, kindness, and caring that my community is especially known for. During our Thanksgiving celebration a special word of gratitude was given to these hardworking caregivers.

5. Be aware that hospice is always paid for through Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance plans, and charity pools. Hospice care includes four hours a day of a professional home health aide, as well as the help of physician, nurse, social work, pastoral care, the training of nonprofessional caregivers, and pain relief, as needed. When I have traveled to intentional communities to talk about elder care, I am shocked at how many people are not aware that hospice is paid for and that it is an option that most people don’t know they have.

The beauty of aging is that it can be a time of life where the demands of work and family are behind you. Yet culturally people still follow a paradigm that may not work for them. Rather than retirement being a time of exploration and connectedness, many seniors feel depressed as a result of feeling unproductive, isolated, and uncared for. Many of these issues are explored further in the article “Communities and Old Age: Opportunities and Challenges for People over 50” by Maria Brenton (see I would like to end with a quote from this article, because it captures the spirit that needs to be harnessed so that people over 50 can create communities that work for them:

“Being part of an intentional community in old age is a way to challenge the isolation and social exclusion that many older people experience in our youth-oriented western societies. Living in an intentional community is a way to maintain personal autonomy as well as add an active, vibrant, companionable dimension to one’s later life. While group living is not everyone’s cup of tea, if you are interested in it don’t wait until you are really old to explore the available options. Anticipate and take action to join or start such communities while you have plenty of drive and energy for new opportunities, challenges, excitement, and personal growth. Don’t wait for the future to be decided for you. Shape it for yourself. There are other people out there with whom you can share the experience.”

Aurora DeMarco has over 30 years of community organizing experience. She has written and published on various topics including health care, child care, migrant workers, parenting, women’s issues, and cyberbullying. She has worked with senior advocates pushing for Health Care for All and was successful in getting a single-payer bill through the New York State Assembly. Aurora is a Licensed Massage Therapist with a specialty in working with Trauma Survivors. She has worked as a Grief Counselor for Hospice of New York, and developed and presented workshops on working with trauma survivors in hospice settings. She most recently facilitated a workshop on providing elder and hospice care in intentional communities. She lives at Ganas, an intentional community on Staten Island, New York and is working with Point A, a collective dedicated to building more intentional income-sharing, egalitarian urban communities.

Every Eight Seconds