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Photo: Silicya Roth
The kindergarten and senior citizens' home are located directly opposite each other at Hamborn Castle. Like two sides to the same coin, children growing up and adults growing old reach out to one another in friendship. In many ways, it's an ideal example of a successful multi-generational community. "I can grow old in good health here", says Angela Burckhardt. For over ten years now, the 73-year-old woman has been living in the residential area of the senior citizens' home. Her small two-room flat is decorated with her own furniture. At her front door, visitors are greeted by a dwarf made of felt. "That's Tomte", explains Angela. "Actually, there was also supposed to be a fox, but I haven't had time to make one yet." That's hardly surprising. Needle felting is her hobby, but she's on the go far too often to get much work done. After all, there's so much to experience at Hamborn Castle, such as the theatrical productions of the Waldorf school, presentations, concerts, eurythmy and slipper cinema. Slipper cinema, did you say? Angela laughs and explains: "Our film evenings are held upstairs in the eurythmy room. We can go there in our slippers. That's where the name comes from." This elderly woman is more than just a resident – she's also on the board of the senior citizens' home, and is involved in a group that organises cultural activities. "I still want to actively participate in life!" she says with a glint in her eye. This includes regularly reading aloud to patients on the nursing ward. "It's good to experience our limitations", says Angela.
Young and old together
The anthroposophic centre at Hamborn Castle was founded 80 years ago. It's located in an idyllic setting in the green countryside – roughly ten kilometres south of Paderborn, in East Westphalia. More than 500 people work and live on some 300 hectares at the Rudolf Steiner Werkgemeinschaft. The multi-coloured natural stone of the main building built in the Weser Renaissance style exudes tradition and vitality. In addition to a Waldorf school and a Waldorf kindergarten, the premises include a project for young people with a boarding school and vocational training, plus a senior citizens' home and a rehab clinic. The estate farm also engages in biodynamic agriculture and forestry. There's also a café and a small organic grocery. Associated areas are used by the daruf sound and video studio, the Ch. Möllmann publishing house and a Christian Community congregation.
The senior citizens' home where Angela lives is just one of many institutions. In other words, there is a sense of community and people are integrated into a wider social context. "I'm in good hands here for my golden years", says Angela. And if her health should ever falter, she can easily move to the nursing section. The senior citizens' home is divided into two sections. While people in the assisted living area are fairly independent, the nursing area has room for 55 individuals who are elderly and in need of care.
Photo: Silicya Roth
Individual approach to residents' preferences
Caretaker Ramona Josephs has been working at Hamborn Castle for twelve years and she knows exactly what her patients want: "We take a very individual approach to residents' preferences", she says. Late risers are allowed to sleep in. Anyone who needs peace and quiet can spend time alone, and anyone who needs company will find it here. And people with hobbies can pursue them. "We ask, for example, how often residents would like to take showers or baths", says the caretaker – a service that's not found everywhere. Everyone at the Hamborn senior citizens' home is treated as a unique combination of mind, spirit and body – even individuals who have lived to an advanced age and are suffering from conditions such as dementia. Treatments range from physiotherapy and curative eurythmy to wraps, compresses and rhythmic massages. Residents can also choose from activities such as painting, handicrafts and choral singing.
It is particularly important for all Hamborn residents – both young and old, healthy and ill alike – to look after each other, learn from each other and live as a community. "When our estate farm inaugurated the chickenmobile, 25 elderly individuals were on hand", says Gerd Bögeholz, a member of the Rudolf Steiner Werkgemeinschaft board of directors. "They were tremendously interested in this mobile chicken coop." The names and creative signs for the three nursing wards at the senior citizens' home are yet another example of a rewarding interaction: Opal, Ruby and Coral. "It was a vocational training initiative and the annual project of the pupils in the twelfth grade", recalls Angela.
The rehab clinic is another cornerstone for growing old in good health at Hamborn. "People come to us for rejuvenation", explains Dr. Constantin Paxino. He is one of the physicians at the clinic and has been living and working at Hamborn for 24 years. The therapeutic approach is based on salutogenic concepts to support health and well-being. This focuses on active therapies like painting, sculpturing, drawing, curative eurythmy and psychological treatments. But it also involves passive therapies like rhythmic massages and oil dispersion baths. "Furthermore, we serve freshly made food here every day, usually prepared with ingredients cultivated by Demeter", says Dr. Paxino. This holistic approach has been particularly successful for tumour follow-up care as well as chronic and psychosomatic illnesses.
A successful concept
And the concept is a success, as shown by the results of a patient survey conducted by Germany's statutory pension insurance authorities to assure the quality of rehab clinics. "Among 96 institutions, we regularly top the list", Gerd Bögeholz proudly proclaims. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that at Hamborn illness – just like growing old – is not viewed as a disorder. "At both the senior citizens' home and the rehab clinic, we help patients to accept their situation", explains Bögeholz. "Here they can draw new strength and seize the day." Artistic therapies in particular are also an excellent way of grappling with life's essential questions.
Angela, in any case, still has many rewarding plans for the future. First, though, she needs some more sheep's wool "for the spinning room corner in the lounge of the nursing section", as she explains. What's more, the roof of the senior citizens' home needs to be renovated and a new addition has to be added to the top floor. "There's a lot to do", says Angela with a laugh. "Let's tackle the future!"
This article was first published in viaWALA September 2012.