Colin’s parents were part of small group of Christian Pacifists who founded Riverside in 1941. As conscientious objectors, several of the men, including Colin’s father, spent most of the war years in detention camps. After the war they formed a trust to administer the dairy farm and orchards they had acquired, and Riverside went on to become a model for intentional community living.
Riverside nowadays is a secular community. The commercial orchards have gone, but the shared values of cooperative living remain. There is no leadership as such; decisions are made by consensus and the 20 permanent members receive a weekly allowance. There are around 60 residents, some renting. In addition Riverside has a fluctuating population of guests at the hostel and other accommodation. The community centre and café ensure there’s always a new face to be welcomed to the community.
Recent health issues have forced Colin to pull back from managing the dairy farm, something he enjoyed for many years.
“I was always a country boy at heart and being a farmer is one of the reasons I’ve been so happy here all my life.”
Living in a community where people don’t retain private assets or ownership, provides a sense of common purpose, but, Colin says, it’s not for everyone.
“You have to have a genuine concern for other people I think. It doesn’t mean to say that you have to like everybody all the time, but basically you have to have a concern for your fellow man, and a certain degree of altruism.”
Tolerance is another handy virtue. “It’s not a good place to live if you’re the sort of person who wants things done yesterday,” he says drily.
While baby boomers gave Riverside a much needed boost in the 1970s as the ‘old guard’ retired, the cycle has again turned. Numbers are declining and it’s not as easy to attract younger people as it was during that decade of counter culture and economic prosperity. With tougher economic times comes the need for some ‘outside the square’ thinking.
What doesn’t change is the spiritual nourishment that looking out to the mountains and rolling hills that surround Riverside provides daily. It is Colin’s place in the world and it’s a place to be shared.
This story is part of a series exploring different living arrangements for seniors. The Going it together series is one way the Mental Health Foundation helps people prepare for a later life that has meaning, purpose and joy.