A Guide to What Aging in Community Means
The concept of aging in community isn’t new—for hundreds of generations, older people lived and died within their communities, supported by their family, friends, and neighbors. By the mid-20th century, assisted living and nursing homes became popular options for people who required more care.
According to AARP, nearly 90 percent of people over age 65 would prefer to live in their homes and communities as long as possible. Seniors who live amongst their peers benefit from more social opportunities, the understanding and empathy shared by others experiencing similar age-related changes, and opportunities to volunteer or contribute their skills and talents in other ways within the community.
What it looks like
Aging in community may mean shared living with a senior roommate, making home modifications to age in place, moving into a retirement community, or adopting the “village-to-village” model comprised of hyperlocal neighborhood groups within individual communities.
Shared living and senior roommates
This long-term living arrangement between two unrelated people benefits both individuals in a myriad of ways: built-in companionship, increased safety, and financial stability. HomeAdvisor explains, “As a matter of fact, a growing number of baby boomers are turning to shared living as an aging in place housing option. A 2014 AARP analysis of census data found approximately 132,000 households and 490,000 women over the age of 50 living with non-romantic peers.”
As the population of older folks grows, more communities have recognized a need to offer resources for people looking for housemates. The Golden Girls Network is just one of many online resources.
It’s not always easy to find someone whose lifestyle and habits will gel with yours. Here are things to consider when you’re looking.
Aging in place
This solution works well for seniors who don’t require significant assistance with daily living. It still makes sense and gives peace of mind to plan ahead for potential future caregiving needs. As the population of older Americans who’ve chosen to age in place grows, policymakers and community leaders are recognizing the importance of providing a variety of services to give people the support they need.
Those support systems might include help with personal care, household chores, errand running, meal preparation, money management, and health care. The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging provides a comprehensive list of resources based on zip code.
Home life itself isn’t the only consideration for aging in place. Think about how you’ll get around at home and in your community. What kind of public transportation is available? Is Uber or another rideshare program an option? Are you close to a senior center or place within the community that offers activities in which you’re interested?
A final consideration is the home itself. Update and incorporate more safety features, like walk-in showers, no-skid flooring, and hand railings on both sides of stairways, in bathrooms, and by your bed. Replace faucets and door knobs with lever-style handles. Add lighting, widen doorways, and install pull-out shelves to facilitate ease of reach. When home modifications will cost too much, explore whether your community offers affordable housing for people who are 55 and older.
Village to village
A more recent option whose popularity has grown tremendously among those who do want to age in place—but not without access to resources they need—is the “village” movement. This movement enables older neighborhood residents to form a nonprofit community group that connects members to services which allow them to stay in their homes longer.
A complement to the age-in-place idea, it’s a good solution for people who don’t want to house share or live with a roommate but who want to remain in their communities. These organizations charge annual membership fees to help offset the costs of offering members help to find reliable professional services that may include transportation, handyman help, in-home care, home modification, meal delivery, and more.
The Baby Boomer population is changing the culture of aging, and many experts think that’s a good thing. Nationwide, there’s a gradual shift to create social structures, roles, and institutions, and invest in research and education in aging to help more people grow older healthfully.
the Contrarian Librarian
Aging at Home Activist
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