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The New Aging in Place Movement

Last update on: Feb 02 2017
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The media like to focus on making lists of the best place to retire or tracking the areas where people are migrating to in retirement. But the fact is that a minority of retirees move very far after retiring. Something like 80% of American retirees stay in the same county where they lived before retirement. They want to maintain friendships, activities, and stay in familiar surroundings.

When a high percentage of people in the same community are in the same age bracket and stay in place during retirement, they create a NORC, a naturally occurring retirement community. A NORC can have unique problems, because it probably was constructed with a younger population in mind and doesn’t have the infrastructure that an older population needs and that would be present in a planned retirement community.

To deal with that situation, the concept of community networks is being developed. Members pay an annual fee and in return receive many of the services available in a planned retirement community, such as transportation, social activities, and emergency services. Read more here.

Such grassroots movements are being launched by baby boomers across the country. “Villages are a recognition that for many people, the traditional structures that provided these services — nearby family, churches, fraternal organizations — don’t exist,” says University of California-Berkeley professor Andrew Scharlach, director of the Center for the Advanced Study of Aging Services and a leading researcher of the village movement.

The appeal is not just to the elderly, but also to their adult children. “We can be the boots on the ground” for children who live far away, says Katie McDonough, executive director of the Capitol Hill Village, which serves 375 members.

Boston resident Joan Bragen’s children live far away, so for the past four years she has relied on the Beacon Hill Village network for rides, plumber recommendations and help organizing closets. “Now that I’m 77, I’m depending on them much more,” she says. “They have an incredible Rolodex.”

Village organizers and academics stress there’s no single model for how villages operate, but there are common traits. The groups are nonprofits and rely predominantly on membership dues for operating costs, with median annual fees of $420 for individuals and $590 for households. Most villages serve middle- to upper-middle-income households generally not eligible for public assistance programs for the aged.

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