Bringing It Back Home: New Groups Help Elderly Age in Place

Studies show that older Americans prefer to stay in their own homes if they possibly can. To make remaining at home a realistic option for as many elderly individuals as possible, pioneering "aging in place" organizations are starting to spring up in communities around the nation.

These non-profit groups, usually started by community members themselves, generally charge an annual membership fee and in return provide services that can range from transportation, shopping, errand running, home repair, computer assistance and occasional meal preparation.

Many of these groups are appearing in relatively affluent and educated communities. For example, there's Boston's Beacon Hill Village, which is one of the first such groups and the model for many others. A household (couple) membership is $850 a year, although low-income rates are available. Advertised services include home repair, transportation, weekly grocery shopping and "assisted living in your home." Persons age 50 and older who live on Beacon Hill and in its adjacent neighborhoods are eligible for membership.

A household membership in Capitol Hill Village, serving the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C., costs $750 a year. Volunteers are available to provide a range of services. When a volunteer is not available or appropriate, members can contact vendors like plumbers, window washers, electricians, handymen, painters, and rug cleaners who have been pre-screened by the organization.

On the West Coast, there's Avenidas Village in Palo Alto, California, which offers members "a one-call resource for all your needs." Services include transportation to and from medical appointments when a doctor advises against driving, access to pre-screened vendors, discounts on services, a daily personal telephone check-in service, and members-only social and cultural activities. A household membership is $900 and Avenidas reached its initial target of 340 charter members in April 2008.

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