A community life that respects individual needs

Work is an important part of adult life. Social therapy centres enable residents with disabilities to realize their personal skills and creativity. The residents are actively involved in manufacturing high-quality, mostly handcrafted products. Apart from traditional goods made of natural materials, the manufacturing process often yields impressive innovative products, such as solar-powered hearing aids or high-grade, non-GM seeds. Many workshops specialize in food production or product finishing, combining the idea of ecological sustainability with the production of organic and bio-dynamic foods which are increasingly in demand: garden and field produce, bread and pastries, cheeses and select freshly roasted organic coffees. In providing these products, the centres not only offer culinary delights to their customers, but make an important contribution to “social farming” by regenerating land left fallow by conventional farming.

Like anyone else, people with disabilities have wishes and ideas about where and how they would like to live: in an apartment, a community, as a couple or by themselves. The wishes for support and care are as differentiated as the need for autonomy.

Many people find support in community life. Inner and outer structures provide reliable orientation in the hectic daily lives we lead today. These structures create space for development and, depending on individual needs, they enable people to lead mostly independent lives or protect them from isolation.

Social therapists support the striving of individuals with special needs for autonomy and self-determination. They live with the people in their care and others in a community that harmoniously combines different life situations. Each individual can partake in the life of the community in the way that best suits him or her. As a result each social organism develops its own cultural identity, goals and general climate.

Cultural activities are an important part of everyday community life, with concerts, readings, plays and exhibitions bringing together not only the members of the community but also the immediate neighbours from nearby villages or districts. This means that the communities are integrated in their social environment and vice versa. They constitute cultural centres which offer an ongoing programme of select and well-attended events.

Life in the community has a spiritual dimension where denominational as well as non-denominational festivals meet the religious needs of the community members.

People who are part of a community like to be involved in discussions and decisions regarding its orientation and direction. Residents’ and village assemblies, board meetings and advocacy groups are important organs that allow individuals to experience themselves as active members of the community. Work, culture and community life provide a social network that people with disabilities often miss out on if left to their own devices.

Like most things in life, living in a community comes with its share of difficulties and obstacles. Every step of a development needs to be worked for and this can be exhausting. It is therefore one of the main goals of anthroposophical social therapy to provide suitable support in terms of adult education and further training, because life also means lifelong learning.