Why Villages? Why Now?

According to the Greater Portland Pulse, there were over 190,000 people aged 65 and older living in the Portland metro area as of the 2010 census. By 2030, that number is expected to grow to almost 395,000.

Chana Andler, Executive Director, Villages NW

Chana Andler,
Executive Director, Villages NW

That’s a lot of people. So many in fact that even if they all wanted to move into retirement facilities, there is no way they could do so. There simply aren’t enough facilities in existence or being built to accommodate that many people. Not to mention that a huge percentage of this population—current estimates suggest up to 75%—don’t have enough retirement savings to be able to afford the $3000+ per month it would cost.

Fortunately, it’s not where most of us want to end up.

According to a recent survey by AARP, 89% of older adults want to age in their own homes and neighborhoods. This is particularly true of the Boomers who have visited their parents and grandparents in the senior ghettos that were created to warehouse them during their golden years. It’s not the vision of aging they have for themselves.

For most Boomers—-indeed, for most older adults—-their vision of aging is one of aging-in-place. Of growing old, if not in the home they have lived in for 40 years, at least in the neighborhood and community they know and love.

Fortunately, their desire to age-in-place turns out to be a very good thing—good for them and good for society. Aging-in-place has been found to improve seniors’ overall health, life satisfaction and self-esteem. It improves both their longevity and their quality of life.

Aging-in-place is also cost-effective. As reported in The Fiscal Times in 2010: “The median monthly cost for nursing home care in 2009 was $5,243 — more than five times that for seniors living at home.” And according to the National Aging in Place Council, “In 2008, the average cost of a home health aide for a single person was $19 per hour. Assisted-living facilities fees were about $3,008 per month.”

Contrast this to the cost of a Village annual membership—which even in the most expensive urban areas tops out at a maximum of $1000 per year and in most cases is considerably less—and it’s not difficult to see why a recent national report concluded, “Solutions that help seniors age in place are considerably cheaper than the alternatives, and will actually save seniors and taxpayers money by making transportation and services more efficient, while lowering overall healthcare expenditures.” [1]

However, the value of Villages—for their members and for society—does not stop there.

By being focused on building authentic community and relationships between members, Villages dramatically reduce isolation. This can be particularly significant after the loss of a spouse when Village membership helps provide continuity, connection and an ongoing network of support.

Villages are efficient. They do not duplicate services. Instead, they help members make full use of existing community resources and then, fill in the gaps with services from the Village.

Villages are a solution that can work for the middle class and lower middle class, as well as for people with significant means. By making it possible for seniors to get the support they need to age-in-place for as little as $10-15 per week, villages help conserve their (limited) financial resources and help prevent–or at least slow—them from sliding downward into poverty.

Villages help restore purpose and meaning to people’s lives, giving members and volunteers important work to do and finding meaningful ways for each to contribute regardless of age.

Grassroots villages give agency and control back to the seniors themselves. In a Village they are members, stakeholders and decision-makers. They are not patients or clients or customers.

Unlike most approaches to aging, Villages are not age-segregated. Village members continue to live in their own neighborhoods surrounded by and interacting with people of all ages. Additionally, the Village draws its volunteers not just from its members, but from the broader community, which further nurtures intergenerational interaction and relationship.

Villages dramatically reduce the burden on adult children of aging parents by providing the parents with an alternative system of support, which is reliable, affordable and appealing.

For Boomers, Villages provide a way to both “pay it forward” and to craft the kind of retirement support system they want to have for themselves when the time comes.

Villages are an empowerment model. They do not ask “What is someone going to do to help me?” They ask “What can all of us working together do to help each other?”

As a member of the first Village (Beacon Hill Village in Boston) so eloquently put it, “Warehousing elderly people, whether in beautiful rural settings or in urban towers, not only consigns them to a life of isolation and inactivity, but also bankrupts the community they came from. If we can stay in our own communities as we age, everyone gains.”

We couldn’t agree more.

It will take multiple grassroots Villages to serve the growing senior population of the Portland metro-area alone, and the average development time for a Village is 3-5 years. Every single day nationwide another 10,000 Baby Boomers reach the age of 65. There’s literally no time to waste.

Chana Andler
Executive Director, Villages NW
http://www.VillagesNW.org
May 2013

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[1] from Aging in Place: A State Survey of Liveability Policies and Practices, developed by AARP and the National Council of State Legislatures.

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The new Administration for Community Living

“All Americans – including people with disabilities and seniors – should be able to live at home with the supports they need, participating in communities that value their contributions. To help meet these needs, HHS is creating a new organization, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) with the goal of increasing access to community supports and full participation, while focusing attention and resources on the unique needs of older Americans and people with disabilities.

The ACL will include the efforts and achievements of the Administration on Aging, the Office on Disability and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities in a single agency, with enhanced policy and program support for both cross-cutting initiatives and efforts focused on the unique needs of individual groups such as children with developmental disabilities, adults with physical disabilities, or seniors, including seniors with Alzheimers.”

via Home | ACL.

At first glance, the announcement of a new government agency by the Department of Health and Human Services focused specifically on enabling seniors and those with disabilities to “live at home with the supports they need” should be good news to the village movement and all those who want to age-in-place and continue to live in community.  And it may yet turn out to be, though enough details about the ACL are not available to know whether it’s going to be a real help and a potential source of funding and support for village efforts or just another set of initials in the bureaucracy.

If you know any more about the ACL than I do, please share!

“Bring Health Care Home”

Great article from today’s New York Times about how much better it is—cost-wise and outcome-wise—to keep and treat patients at home, especially seniors:

“Patients who are treated at home by a doctor and nursing staff who know them intimately and can be available 24/7 are happier and healthier. This kind of care decreases the infections, mistakes and delirium, which, especially among the elderly, are the attendants of hospital care. And it is far more efficient. According to a 2002 study, for the patients treated by the Veterans Affairs’ Home Based Primary Care program, the number of days spent in hospitals and nursing homes was cut by 62 percent and 88 percent, respectively, and total health care costs dropped 24 percent.”

via Bring Health Care Home – NYTimes.com.

This echoes what the aging-in-place Villages have already learned and seniors intuitively know.   If you want cost-effective, positive psychological and physical health outcomes, keeping seniors at home and finding ways to deliver services to them there for as long as possible is definitely the way to go.