New Elder Communities Take Root Where We Already Live.
Christopher Van De Moortel, President
Aging in Place and Senior Villages are beginning to sweep the country. Each “village” may vary slightly in their approach to helping seniors remain in their homes, but most have a combination of volunteer services and third party providers. From roofing contractors to picking up a prescription, their mission is to redefine how we live out our days: at home, in our homes, and not in nursing homes.
Na Hoaloha in Hawaii began in 1995 with the mission of helping those who fall through the cracks of the state and federal systems, using a neighbors helping neighbors framework. In 2001 in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, older citizens got together and created a network of services provided by volunteers, non-profits, and for profit third party companies. Since then the concept has continued to move down through New York City; Philadelphia; Washington, DC; Richmond, VA; North Carolina; and to the west coast. Senior Villages are the new paradigm in caring for the elderly. They have grown up from within their communities and in many cases you’ll see seniors helping seniors.
In the greater Washington D.C. area we have a number of Senior Villages. Capitol Hill, Palisades, Northwest Neighbors Village, Bannockburn, Chevy Chase, Burning Tree, Cabin John and Somerset to name a few. In some cases there are fees charged to residents of these villages to pay for the coordination of volunteer services and referrals to third party providers. Often, discounts are extended from those providers to residents within the village.
Home care for older adults in senior villages has tackled much of the physical environment (getting your groceries, going to the doctor, fixing the roof, etc.). We also must address the things that are less tangible like communication and socializing. In the senior village model, for the people that have all their needs taken care of – the laundry done, a ride to the doctor, groceries delivered, and Junior helping Dad shower – many of these needs are being met through a combination of volunteers and vetted third party providers.
Caring for the elderly at home, in senior villages or not, requires a multi-pronged approach. While online communities can help mitigate feelings of isolation and depression, and sharing photos of grandkids via email can bring a smile to the face and help seniors stay connected to family, there is another kind of interaction missing.
It is imperative to include dementia support and caregiver support in this new paradigm of senior living – what we call Caring for the Caregiver. Even with all the help for seniors, the primary caregiver is often overlooked. By addressing the primary caregiver’s emotional needs first, aging in place is easier.
In my opinion, assisted living for seniors in an institutional setting just doesn’t fit the bill anymore.