Aging in Place means Aging in Community

AARP surveys consistently show that the vast majority of older adults want to age in place, so they can continue to live in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. With nursing home costing $87,000/year and paid care at home costing about $38,000/year, aging in place is both the preferred choice and, in many cases, the only affordable option for middle-income seniors.

Most people are shocked to discover that Medicare does not cover long term services, and that access to nursing homes requires spending down toward poverty to become Medicaid eligible. Therefore people are aging in place, depending upon informal caregivers including family, friends and neighbors to provide most of their care.

Aging in community expands the concept of aging in place by including active engagement of older adults in planning and implementing services and supports, maintaining meaningful connections to their surrounding community and having control over housing and other choices. Connections may be enhanced by technology, providing the communication and information needed to make wise choices. Technology empowers people to leverage low-cost Intentional Community service models including Villages, NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities), TimeBanks, neighborhood associations, churches and other faith-based networks. All of these models are based on strong civic engagement, volunteerism and mutual assistance cultures that strengthen communities by empowering people to better support themselves and each-other.

For example, the Village to Village Network is a national organization with a regional hub Villages NW in Portland, Oregon. The Village model relies on the collective abilities of the community to respond to common challenges they face aging in place. Elders are organizing Villages to help solve the two greatest problems that often lead to premature loss of independence: social isolation and lack of needed services. Volunteers are a critical component of the Village model, assisting with daily operations or delivering services like taking a member to the doctor’s office and helping with groceries. Neighborhood residents create villages to help coordinate and deliver services and supports within their communities. This consumer-driven and person-centered model can help delay or even prevent the need for institutional care.

Villages are one of the new, successful models of Intentional Community. For more information, see: Connected to the Community: Current Aging-in-Place Choices, which includes a concise Index of the full range of options available today, from skilled nursing and assisted living facilities to innovative community and grassroots caregiving models, with a clear understanding of the benefits that technology brings to achieving the goals of affordable independence.