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Lions Roar : November 2019
HAD SOMEONE TOLD Susan O’Connell, when she started her Zen journey over thirty years ago, that one day the San Francisco Zen Center would be a partner in a retirement community, she would have politely questioned their sanity. And yet today, Susan herself is spear- heading one of the most audacious Life Plan Communities ever imagined. Enso Village in Sonoma County will be the first of its kind—an inclusive retirement community where Zen practice will influence every aspect of living, from design and architecture to healthcare, cuisine, and community culture. “Our focus is on mindful aging, experi- encing the joys of nature, participating in environmental stewardship, and providing contemplative care for adults over the age of sixty,” said O’Connell, who has served as President of the Zen Center and is now the Spiritual Director of Enso Village. Enso Village is a collaboration between the San Francisco Zen Center and Kendal Corporation, a Quaker- based leader in transforming the aging experience. Recognizing that Kendal’s model allows for a resident-driven approach to community building as well as the many cultural synergies the orga- nizations share, the Zen Center team knew they had found the right partner when they approached Kendal in 2016. “The idea of Zen-inspired senior liv- ing has been on our mind for years. As our Senior Teachers and many of our practitioners were aging, we saw there was no retirement community that resonated with someone with a Zen life- style,” says O’Connell. “ When we met the team at Kendal, we were immediately impressed by their experience, but it was their values—from silent meditation to respect for the environment and a belief in the inherent dignity of aging—that convinced us they shared our vision.” Although a single beam has yet to be lifted, a vibrant community has already formed around the vision behind Enso Village. Interest in the concept extends well beyond the San Francisco Zen Cen- ter community, and indeed, beyond the Bay Area. Before any formal marketing had started, more than four thousand individuals had placed their names on an interest list, eager to learn more. “The overwhelming response shows there is appeal to a Zen-inspired life that extends beyond those currently practic- ing,” said O’Connell. “The growing cul- tural popularity of living a more mindful lifestyle has people hungry for options outside of conventional senior living communities.” Enso Village will offer all of what you might expect to see in a modern Life Plan Community. Residents will have access to a state-of-the-art fitness center, tranquil community spaces, and dining options. But Enso Village will also feature a meditation hall, Tassajara Bakery, and, although the community will not be completely vegetarian, farm- to-table dining under the guidance of the renowned San Francisco-based Greens Restaurant. The community also plans to farm some of its food on-site with the possibility of residents’ volun- teer participation. Like the values it is rooted in, Enso Village aims to be an inclusive com- munity, open to all whose hearts and minds are open to a mindful experience in retirement. “ We knew this was a special project when we started. Seeing the interest from such a wide variety of people pro- vides validation for all the years we put into planning,” said Sean Kelly, Presi- dent and CEO of Kendal Corporation. “ We believe that Enso Village will set a new standard in retirement living and we’re so grateful to be a part of it.” Enso Village will open in 2023. For more information on the community please visit https://enso.kendal.org. SPONSORED CONTENT The Zen of Retirement Living LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2019 34