Aging-in-Place – It’s time to try it here

A letter from Don Caley to raise awareness, particluarly locally in SE Michigan, for more aging in place initiatives.

My widowed mother moved back to Michigan from Florida a few years ago. For two years she rented an apartment, then bought a small condo in Westland. She was fiercely independent, but over a period of fifteen years she gradually came to need more and more help. Being the only son, I found myself spending more and more time maintaining the condo – replacing light bulbs, fixing appliances, gardening, etc.

Seven years ago she opted for Assisted Living at Park Place, in Milford, at the age of 90. She was still driving. She also took up the computer in a big way – Email and designing greeting cards were her specialties. Assisted Living, for her, was a great choice. She was very fortunate to be able to handle the expense. When she died four years ago, the cost was just over three thousand dollars a month. But not everyone can handle that kind of cost.

I’m sure that many readers have grappled with the problem of dealing with old age. It’s probably accurate to say that most would prefer to remain in their own homes as long as possible, regardless of cost. But, like my mother, they wonder how to handle those parts of daily living that they find themselves less and less able to handle with increasing age.

This, of course, is not just a local issue. Across the country, seniors and aging Boomers are thinking about the challenges of aging. Fortunately, a new kind of non-profit organization is springing up that successfully addresses these concerns. It’s called the ‘Aging-in-Place Initiative’. The mission of these organizations is to do whatever it takes to allow seniors to stay in their homes as long as possible.

Think of Aging in Place (AIP) as a Senior Center on steroids. The first one to organize successfully is in Beacon Hill, Massachusetts ( www.beaconhillvillage.org). Faced with the prospect of leaving the neighborhood they love in order to obtain the services of a retirement community, a group of long-time Beacon Hill residents decided to create a better alternative – Beacon Hill Village is designed to make remaining at home a safe, comfortable and cost-effective solution.

By partnering with proven providers of services, Beacon Hill Village is able to offer its members preferred access to social and cultural activities, exercise opportunities and household and home maintenance services, as well as medical care and assisted living at home. As a nonprofit, membership organization, it can provide these programs and services more cost-effectively than most conventional retirement communities.

There is no one ‘formula’ for these organizations, since each community is different. At Capitol Hill Village (www.capitolhillvillage.org) in Washington, D.C., $500 per year buys access, via phone or email, to services including transportation to and from appointments, help with computer problems, meal preparation and gardening, for example.

Similar AIP organizations are now running in Colorado, California, Maryland, Connecticut and many other states. Closer to home, they’re operating in Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, Gaylord, Grand Rapids and Traverse City.

My wife and I are still able to handle most of the myriad chores associated with our home. But realistically, we’re soon going to become less able. We’d love to see an AIP organization take root nearby, partly for altruistic reasons and partly out of self-interest. We think this is an idea who’s time has come.

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