New Concept of “Aging in Place” Communities

According to some recent polling, nearly 90% of those age 60+ years would prefer to age in familiar surroundings, usually meaning in the place in which they currently reside.  The result is the concept of “aging in place,” an idea that is gaining momentum.

To many this may seem the most natural thing in the world since people have been “aging in place” for centuries, particularly in places such as Europe and Mexico where older family members are cared for and respected.   In the U.S., however, “aging in place” is starting to mean creating an alternative to assisted living facilities, hiring expensive in-home help or moving in with the kids.

Perhaps because American society does not appreciate its older residents as much as it should, or perhaps because baby boomers are dealing with placing aging parents in continuing care facilities and seeing what the future holds, nearly one hundred “aging in place” non-profits have popped up, or are in the planning stages, creating ways for residents to age comfortably in their own neighborhoods.

Neighbors in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond are coming together to start neighborhood non-profit organizations that charge a yearly membership fee for residents to have access to providers of all kinds of services, from home repair to food preparation to security check-ins and more.  This gives older people access to screened help with just one phone call and lets them know that they are part of a watchful community, not isolated dealing and with tasks that can sometimes seem overwhelming.

Instead of needing full-time care, these residents may only need assistance with common, everyday chores.  And because aging in place neighborhoods charge less than the average assisted living facility, they are attractive to many seniors on limited budgets.   A sampling shows that annual membership dues range from $360 to $1,200, plus a la carte charges for individual services. 

That these aging in place neighborhoods are formed by the residents themselves puts the residents in charge and gives them a sense of control, something often lost when older people move into an assisted living facility. Being in charge often leads to less depression and a greater sense of security.    For baby boomers used to controlling their own destiny, aging in place seems like a natural continuation of how they have lived their lives.   The concept is perhaps most beneficial for older women who often find themselves alone after the death of their spouse.

These aging in place neighborhoods are not a good choice for those with serious health problems, but for an aging population that is relatively healthy, they are an excellent alternative to current aging housing options.   Boston’s Beacon Hill Village is the prototype and has 400 members; Bronxville, New York, New Canaan, Connecticut, Washington, D.C. and Palo Alto, California will have newly formed “neighborhood retirement villages” soon.

Starting an aging in place retirement neighborhood just takes a concentration of interested residents who plan to stay in their current homes for years to come, some initiative, a little planning and a bit of business sense.