A SIGNIFICANT CONCERN as people grow older is that they may have to leave their home. This means leaving behind a comfortable setting, a familiar community and many memories. In addition a certain amount of control is lost when one leaves home. This “control” affects our feelings of dignity, quality of life and independence. Our homes also provide a sense of security regardless of personal risks they may present.
And so, most American elders desire to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives. In fact, an AARP study shows that over 80% of U.S. “residents over 45 say they want to remain in their own homes even when they need assistance. Another study, by Clarity and the EAR Foundation shows that 26% of older people fear losing independence and 13% fear moving to a nursing home much more than they fear death.
As my father became more fragile, my sister and I encouraged him to move closer to either one of us – New York or California. He flatly refused. He wanted to remain in the home he had shared with my mother surrounded by the pictures and mementos of their life together. It was where she had died, and it was where he wanted to die as well. He often reminded us of the terrible mistake he had made when he agreed to have one of his brothers admitted to a nursing home. “It killed him,” he would say with a guilt laden sigh. He wanted to “age in place.”
Aging in place is a term used to describe a person living in the residence of their choice, for as long as they are able. This includes being able to have any services (or other support) they might need over time as their needs change.
However, aging in place only works if it has been planned for. In my father’s case we took a reverse mortgage on his Florida condominium to supplement his small monthly income so we could pay for his live-in care giver and other needs as they arose. The focus of aging in place, is to help seniors ensure they can live where they choose and get any help they need for as long as they can.
THE VILLAGE EXPERIMENT
The Village is a grassroots effort that addresses the needs of older adults who wish to Age in Place in the homes and neighborhoods they love that is self-governing often with a Director, and focused on providing services and programming to meet the changing lifestyles of members as they age.
The concept began in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood in 2001, when a group of residents founded a nonprofit called Beacon Hill Village to ease access to the services that often force older Americans to give up their homes and move to a retirement community. Today there are over 200 open Villages and more than 150 in development in 45 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Village to Village (VtV) Network, a group launched in 2010 that provides assistance to new villages and tracks their growth nationwide.
The village concept has now been embraced by two synagogues in Los Angeles, California. ChaiVillageLA is a pioneering initiative by Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills and Temple Isaiah, creating the first synagogue-based village in the country. “Together, these two innovative synagogues have envisioned a unique communal and multi-generational system of mutual support, where village members provide each other the programs, services and resources which enable them to live healthier and more engaged lives,” comments Devorah Servi, Executive Director.