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Aging; Gaskin and Hippy Community
Subject: Re: the aging of Rainbow family
Date: 12 May 1999 19:23:42 -0700
From: (gaia)
To: "agr"
Newsgroups: alt.gathering.rainbow

Summertown, Tennessee, USA

Stephen Gaskin: Carrying the Values of the '60s into the Millenium: Autumnal 'flower power' promotes elderly cooperatives Caduceus Publications, U.K. (1995)

Caduceus: If you were involved in 'The Movement' in the US in the '70s, you knew Stephen Gaskin's name. He and his wife, Ina May, started The Farm in Tennessee - a true commune, in which people contributed what they could and received what they needed. The Farm is an inspiring story of a commune that worked at many levels, and lasted. Roads, water systems, housing, schools, health care, over 40 small businesses - catering at one time for a community of 1500 people. Ina May pioneered the resurrection of midwifery in the US - midwives had been eliminated by the 'advance' of technological birth management.
How Stephen mobilized people and international money to help the Indians of Guatemala is another heroic story well worth the telling.

Now down to 250 residents, The Farm 'is more of a home and less of a revolution.' Stephen describes himself as a man of 60 who has no health insurance, no life insurance and not much money. Simplicity is a precondition of everything he does. He can't go without some project happening, so he has started a new one: 'The Rocinante Project'.

Stephen Gaskin:
Rocinante (pronounced 'ro-see-NON-te') was Don Quixote's horse. In Cervantes' great novel, Don Quixote, the hero, as an old man, decides to go forth as a Knight Errant and fight the evil magicians, rescue the fair maidens and do all good deeds. He uses a barber's basin for a helmet and takes his neighbor's draft horse for a charger. This horse he names Rocinante, which means 'Supernag'. In all of the good knight's adventures, Rocinante remains trustworthy and faithful.

People being born and people giving birth, people dying and people giving deathcare - all need sacred space in which to make these passages. This attention to the beginnings and endings of life are central to the philosophy of Rocinante. With twenty years of experience now in community midwifery and rural primary health care, we in Rocinante are embarking on the creation of a project that will include a birth center with midwifery training facility, a complete senior community living center, ranging from assisted living and adult daycare to a hospice for the dying.

The idea is that people with special needs for a community of this kind will cooperate to produce a pleasing and healing community. We believe that we have the experience necessary to design an inexpensive and graceful paradigm that can serve as a model for health care for the next century. Next door to The Farm is 100 acres of land which Rocinante has purchased for the establishment of the Rocinante Health Center. It is our intention to raise funds to build low cost, energy-efficient housing for people who might otherwise be homeless. Also, qualified people are given the chance to help build themselves a cabin on our land which will be their home for their life span and then will revert to Rocinante to be offered to another old or fragile person who might not have been able to build themselves a cabin.

Rocinante's role is to maintain the land and to provide organizational administration for the project. The basic idea is that elderly and fragile people can band together to create for themselves a friendly, safe and affordable environment. Many old people would like to band together but are not strong enough to buy land and manage the infrastructure. Part of this infrastructure is the staffing of an office to facilitate communications between Rocinante residents and their legal and medical support structure, whether public or private, to assist residents and outpatients in obtaining their entitlements. Many old people are underserved simply because they have trouble filling out insurance forms or have no transportation to clinics or doctors' offices.

We envision a modular use of the land, where small cabins of single or multiple occupancy for elderly or fragile people are connected by paved roadways suitable for power wheelchairs and solar-electric utility carts. The center would be a plaza with a covered walkway around the edge that would be a meeting and hangout place and sheltered exercise path. In the long run, the project is going to cost hundreds of thousands, possibly, millions of dollars. As it gets rolling, it will begin to earn that for itself, but in these early times while we harness the synergy, we need Grants in Aid for seed money.

Right now we have a small crew of settlers who are either already living on the new 100 acres or building facilities to move into. These are dedicated people who want to carry this project to fruition. Some of our first residents will be elderly people who are tough enough to settle into small cabins designed for the assisted living mode.

This is more than a housing project. We are not primarily 'providing' housing. We are providing a whole frame of reference, including access to care, friends and peer group, access to cabinetry shop or gardens and all of the healthful aspects of community. We are helping people help themselves. With our help, these people can be a largely self-sufficient community and no longer be part of a large, underserved population.

The more I talk to people about Rocinante, the more I see how many people are not well fixed to retire. Many people are afraid. By this, I mean the marginal people, the people who were the most injured by the economics of the last twelve years: the old, the young, the fragile. Rocinante intends to show how even these marginal people, working in concert, can create at least a measure of societal safety in this era of burst safety nets.

The prevailing mood of the money people in the United States is that there will not be universal health coverage in the US if they can prevent it. I saw in the newspapers that by the year 2000, 25 percent of the old people in the US will have no health insurance. That is 5 years from now. The article went on to say that some form of collectivity seemed necessary. Rocinante is timely.

We are hearing from people who want to build centres similar to Rocinante where they live. All are aware of the need and champing at the bit to pioneer elderly cooperatives. We anticipate that this may eventually lead to a network of small, self-directed care centers, and it is possible that Rocinante will serve as an organizational hub for this movement.

Although, from my 25 years of experience in the field, I know that no one will fund or give grants for anything religious, we sneak it in by being obviously spiritual in our actions - taking care of one another in a kind, loving and spiritual fashion. I would hope that we could be a center of culture, but I am against any attempt to have a 'Spiritual Brand Name' associated with the project. I want to be as attractive to an ethical atheist as to an overtly spiritual person. No one should feel that they need to 'convert' to anything.

We would be ecological by the simple fact of living lightly upon the earth and caring for ourselves in an inexpensive and graceful way that could be reproduced and therefore be of significant value to the planet. The way I see us seeding is by making a paradigm that can travel and work in other localities. We, of course, would give help and advice to other seedling projects. I don't think people need teachings so much as viable examples. Considering the damage that Mrs. Thatcher did to the health system in the United Kingdom, it looks like this paradigm is just as relevant on your side of the Atlantic as on ours.

Even if you are not old and don't expect to get old, the revolutionary aspect of our movement should amuse you. It does us.

The address of Rocinante is
41 The Farm
Summertown, Tennessee
38483, USA.

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