Aging in place or living out your life in your own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably is the sincere goal of many seniors. According to AARP, 82% of people would like to remain in the comfort and familiarity of their own homes for as long as they are able. As baby boomers enter their senior years, this desire to age in place is a relevant national issue and impacts personal, state, and federal finances. In addition to being the preference of most, aging in place saves money.
Aging in place requires assistance, or a village if you will. Beacon Hill Village pioneered the Village model in Boston in 2001. The model runs on social capital. Member volunteers are its backbone and provide transportation, shopping, household chores, gardening, and light home maintenance. This is old-fashioned neighborliness, but in a coordinated manner, as senior volunteers help each other in an exchange of skills and abilities. Members have access to social and educational programs, including exercise classes, potluck dinners, book clubs, and cultural events. The Village staff is responsible for administration, including vetting vendors and volunteer coordination. These vendors provide home health care and professional home repairs. Lancaster, PA has its own Village, called the “Lancaster Downtowners”.
As for technology, older homes can be made safe for seniors with simple and sophisticated home improvements. Simple improvements include comfort height toilets, bathroom grab bars, replacing door knobs with levers, and opening up smaller doorways. The key is to eliminate barriers and prevent falls. Sophisticated improvements include the use of the internet and wireless sensors to monitor wellness functions such as door position, motion, body temperature, blood pressure, weight, and other variables customized for individual health conditions. Additional technology enables family and caregivers to connect virtually with seniors by sending pictures, videos, reminders, emails, calendar appointments, messages, as well as news and weather updates, all directly to a private channel on the senior’s TV; creating a user friendly “Communication Station.” No computer experience required. With this type of assistance, many seniors can remain in their homes.