A Brief Summary of the History of ElderSpirit Community and Trailview Development Corporation

The idea of a retirement community of mutual assistance and late-life spirituality was conceived and nourished by a committee of the Federation of Communities in Service (FOCIS). FOCIS was formed in 1967 by a group of women working in Appalachia in areas of community service and development. The group expanded to include men as well as women, and as some members approached retirement age, the question of forming a retirement community arose. A committee was formed in 1995, using the title FOCIS FUTURES.

The committee learned about the Cohousing movement, and decided that would be a good plan to follow. The committee agreed on certain values, which are now expressed in the Statement of Mission and values. The group identified strongly with the ideas on late-life spirituality expressed by Drew Leder in an article Spiritual Community in Later Life: A Modest Proposal (Journal of Aging Studies, Vol. 10, Number 2, pp. 103-116, 1996). These ideas are expressed in several of the documents available on this site.

The FOCIS Futures Committee, after much research within the Appalachian area, decided to locate in Abingdon, Virginia. Dene Peterson located a piece of property which the committee agreed would be ideal. To purchase the property, a corporation was formed, using the name Trailview Development Corporation. (The property borders on the Virginia Creeper Trail, a former railroad bed, now a walking, running, biking trail.)

The Retirement Research Foundation of Chicago, the Foundation that had funded the work of Drew Leder on late-life spirituality, awarded to FOCIS a three-year grant for predevelopment expenses. The name adopted for the project was ElderSpirit Community, a term that Drew Leder used in his proposal. The beginning date for the grant was July, 1999.

A Board of Directors for Trailview Development Corporation was formed, as well as a local Advisory Board. An architect was engaged, and the building committee and prospective residents had input for the design. Dene Peterson, who served as project manager, began contacts with government housing agencies to find ways to accomplish the goal of affordable housing.

Jean Marie Luce, community coordinator, worked on gathering a community of people interested in late-life spirituality and a community of mutual support. An important part of this effort was teaching classes at the local College for Older Adults, which Jean Marie helped to establish. The work of the two staff members and volunteers has brought ElderSpirit Community into reality.

The Board of Directors for Trailview Development Corporation engaged the Highlands Group, P.C. as architects. The potential residents participated in the site design and floor plans. Dene Peterson served as project director. With the help of the Board, they were able to raise the money from public and private sources and obtain a construction loan. Community Housing Partners were hired as general contractors. Now we have 29 homes of mixed-income housing that allows elders to keep their independence and their money.

Dene Peterson is awarded national recognition
as a "Purpose Prize Fellow."

Click this link to read about the award


Aging in a Community of Mutual Support
by Anne Glass

AARP Article about Cohousing Communities and ElderSpirit Community
November, 2004

Article by the Associated Press
July 2004

An article by Dene Peterson in the Winter 2003 edition of
Communities Magazine: Journal of Cooperative Living

From the Sunday June 11, 2006 online issure of the Lexington Hearld-Leader/
Movers and shapers: Activists Design New Kind of Retirement
by Amy Wilson, Herald-Leader staff writer

"When Kentuckian Dene Peterson retired in 1991, she wanted to figure out how to do this retirement thing right. She called her friends.

Some said they wanted to retire in the city. Some said in the country. Some said warm, some said mountains. They all said, wouldn't it be nice if we could be among friends."

An article about Abingdon, titled The Hills Are Alive in the January 23, 2006 issue of the Wall Street Journal, mentioning ElderSpirit Community.

"Home but Not Alone"
by Emily Langer, Washington Post
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The Washington Post's article on ElderSpirit

"ElderSpirit Community: A Community of Mutual Support and Late Life Spirituality"
by Anne Leibig
From: "Community Psychotherapy and Life Focus: A Gestalt Anthology of the History, Theory, and Practice of Living in Community."
Edited by Brian O'Neill, 2009
Ravenswood Press, New South Wales, Australia

"Elder Co-Housing in the United States: Three Case Studies"
by Anne Glass

"A Case for Mutual Support"
by Marianne Boyle

"Sitting Still in ElderSpirit"
by Anne Leibig

2007 ElderSpirit Community®, Inc.