When you think about retirement, do you imagine continuing to live where you are now?
The retirement goal used to be moving somewhere warmer, quieter, or just different. Sometimes that worked out and sometimes it was a disappointment. Often retirement communities or retirement homes felt too removed from people’s former lives. Now more people are thinking about staying close to their friends, family, memories and community. The new term for this is “aging in place.”
This idea has given birth to the “Village Movement”. It’s designed to help seniors stay in their communities by meeting their emotional and functional needs. It’s the hub of information for modifying homes, dealing with other issues and providing assistance when it is needed.
Beacon Hill Village, in the heart of Boston, was the first of these communities in the United States. This member-driven organization provides programs and services for around 350 Boston residents age 50 and over. In 1999, a group of Beacon Hill residents began discussing their objections to the “warehousing” of elderly people and expressing their desire to grow old in their own community with the assurance that quality support and services would be available when they needed them.
“Some were keenly aware of the lack of options their parents had as they aged, and collectively they felt that aging “in place” would be far more desirable than moving to a Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) or assisted living as they aged,” explained Laura Connor, Executive Director at Beacon Hill Village.
According to AARP, 90 percent of adults want to remain in their own home as they grow older. Due to the mobility of American families, with children often living far away, aging in place has become more of a challenge. Senior villages offer a comfortable solution to this problem by providing seniors with access to the resources and services they need in order to stay safe and healthy in their homes.
Aging in your own home has a number of advantages. You can stay in the comfort of a familiar setting close to friends, retaining more independence, dignity and quality of life. Aging in place focus on three main goals:
• Independence—enabling older citizens to be in control of their life at home and live with dignity and respect.
• Resources—making the most economical use of resources.
• Services—providing coordinated and collaborative relationships between service providers and businesses in support of aging in place.
Like many of the newer aging in place communities throughout the United States, Beacon Hill offers members a range of educational programs, social activities, cultural trips and wellness programs. “We connect our members to vetted providers for a wide range of services so that members can live in their own homes comfortably, conveniently, and safely, home repair services, computer repair services and instruction, home care assistance, meal preparation, etc.” said Connors. “We also arrange for rides to local appointments and events, weekly grocery shopping trips, as well as do some of our less mobile members’ grocery shopping for them.”
Some of the other services provided by age-friendly villages throughout the country include:
- Elder law
- Money management and financial planning
- Emergency response services
- In-home care
- Insurance services
- Home remodeling
- Occupations therapy
- Lifestyle transition services
- Non-profit resources
There is no doubt that Beacon Hill has been an inspiration to the village movement, with more than one hundred villages in place and many more in the pipeline. “As the first in the country, Beacon Hill Village demonstrated that older adults could create an innovative model that was self-governing, grassroots, and community based. I believe the founders tapped into a widely-held desire to live out our lives in the homes and neighborhoods we love. Villages provide access to services and programs that promote aging in place, social integration, health and well-being,” said Connors.
As more people become senior citizens each day, the village movement is providing welcome support for the continuation of aging in the home and community where residents have lived most of their adult life. Hopefully the movement will continue to expand so that many more seniors will be able to participate.
Community Without Walls in Princeton, N.J. is another community organized around similar ideas.
Tiger Place is another concept in aging in place/community living for older adults. It was developed as collaboration between Americare, the University of Missouri and Sinclair School of Nursing.Nursing. It offers a connection to the dynamic University culture by inviting residents to take part in research projects that focus on healthy living. Off campus activities are also encouraged for the people living in this intimate community of older adults. Residents move into one and two-bedroom private apartments near the campus. Services include:
- 24/7 nurse on-call
- Exercise classes
- Access to an on-site wellness center
- Wellness assessments
- Volunteer involvement in ongoing successful aging research
- For a Study on Aging in the Place Model: Nursing Outlook
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