Written by Scott Miller
The Journey Begins
On Sunday, October 28 at 7am, Ruth Dunlap and I backed out of the driveway at the Thistledown Co-Living House, headed for the LeadingAge Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. Ruth is an integral pioneer in this new concept of living. Drawing upon a fairly recent trend among millennials who often struggle to make ends meet as a result of entry level earnings, and who share life together in a house with 4 or 5 others in a cooperative living setting, Garden Spot Communities asked the question: could that same model apply to the other end of the spectrum?
After all, as years add up incomes tend to drop and/or they become fixed. Affordable housing has long been a challenge for older adults in the U.S. and the solution has been government subsidy. Garden Spot has been contemplating and working through the idea of non-government subsidized solutions for years. One solution: the first Cooperative Living House.
Ruth decided to lean in and explore the Garden Spot Communities Cooperative Living House which she shares with four others. It’s affordable housing for older adults, 62 and over, based on a sliding scale of social security income. As someone who has embraced the concept and is helping make it work as we learn the ins and outs, she was asked by Garden Spot Communities CEO, Steve Lindsey, if she would be willing to accept the Leading Age Innovation Award on behalf of Garden Spot.
On Eagle’s Wings
Ruth’s motto is “On Eagle’s Wings” and as we talked on the way to Philadelphia it became clear that she lives her life with an eye on the days ahead, thriving as her life rises to ever greater heights. We shared stories and got to know each other a bit. From my perspective, Ruth is a person who has been threshing and harvesting her life experiences, cultivating wisdom from those experiences and applying it in her community as a catalyst to enrich the lives of others, thereby enriching her own. I’m not surprised that when Steve asked her to accept the Leading Age Innovation Award she immediately agreed!
A Perfect Example
At 1pm we sank into comfortable, reserved seats directly in front of the stage as the Leading Age 2018 conference got underway. The conference theme was based on living with purpose, something with which Garden Spot Communities is very familiar. It resonates with what people who live at Garden Spot experience every day: Abundant Opportunities to Live with Purpose in Community. Like Ruth, Garden Spot sees living with purpose as something that you do today and in your days ahead, drawing upon life experiences as you soar to new heights as On Eagle’s Wings. A perfect example is Ruth’s willingess to help pioneer cooperative living at Thistledown.
Around 1:40pm the Cooperative Living House video began to play on the big screens and the Cooperative Living House story was shared with thousands of conference attendees. I escorted Ruth on stage and she was presented with a crystal award inscribed with “On Eagle’s Wings.” Ruth was both thrilled and deeply moved. After pictures and a standing ovation we returned to our seats. It was a wonderful day that we’ll both remember.
Ruth, like many at Garden Spot Communities, seizes meaningful opportunities as they present themselves. Whether it’s a trip to a CURE hospital in Kenya to love on kids and their families, or mentoring students at CrossNet Ministries in New Holland, or stepping on stage to accept an national innovation award of which you’re an integral contributor, opportunities abound. Living with purpose at Garden Spot is all about what you do today and in the days ahead. It doesn’t matter if you’re 105 and have lived in the community for many years, a pioneer in the Cooperative Living House or 55 and just moved to a new home in the Sycamore Springs neighborhood.