Tuesday, February 26, 2008


On Monday, I had lunch with eleven friends. Most of the people at the table have retired at least once and are active as volunteers in serving the community in a variety of ways. We gathered to discuss what we might do to enable seniors—ourselves and others— to stay in our homes longer. We looked at a model in Boston, Beacon Hill Village, doing just that:

Beacon Hill Village helps persons age 50 and older who live on Beacon Hill and in its adjacent neighborhoods enjoy safer, healthier and more independent lives in their own homes–well connected to a familiar and attentive community.
Writing about BHV, the
AARP Bulletin put it this way:

Now, they can do that, confident that even as they age they can deal with almost any contingency, large or small, without relying on relatives or friends. To preserve their independence, they can turn to the village, as the nonprofit association is known, which helps its 320 members find virtually any service they need—from 24-hour nursing care to help with a wayward cat, often at a discounted fee.

Their innovation is so appealing that a national expert on aging at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology asserts it could well change the way Americans—and the rest of the world—grow old. "The assisted living and the die-with-a-golf-club-in-your-hand communities had better take notice," says Joseph Coughlin, director of the MIT AgeLab, a think tank on aging.

Any neighborhood resident age 50 or older can join the village. Its members include retirees in their 90s as well as working people in their 50s and 60s.

"The younger ones join because they like the convenience of our services or they need help caring for a parent who lives with them," Willett {a social worker in the Village} says. "They want to support Beacon Hill Village, make sure it will be there as they age."
This and other models are being developed all over the country. This is
not a panacea for those with complicated medical needs, but
the approach addresses what experts say can be a premature decision by older people to give up their homes in response to relatively minor problems: No way to get to the grocery store. Tradesmen unwilling to take on small repairs. The isolation of a snowy winter.
“Is this something we can/should replicate here in a city of 70,000 on the high desert of central Oregon?” That was our question at lunch. We went away with a plan to seriously explore the possibility.

If you already know about Beacon Hill Village or a similar effort,
If you follow the links above and read about BHV,
If you or your parents are facing these issues, or
If you are involved with senior services,
I would like to know what you think.

I plan to post stories in the weeks ahead about how our exploration proceeds. I welcome your wisdom as we work at this declaration of independents.

- Milo

PS: Read the instructions for submitting comments on the right lower panel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Right on, the paradigm is shifting. We need to do some new things right here in Bend.

We are moving away from institutional models with high costly overhead to more flexible approaches, wrap around if you will, of the services that people need to be independent and safe.

Warp around takes strengths and assets of the person into account, e.g. a capable spouse, a handy son, a caring neighbor, a clear mind, etc. in addressing and choosing support needs.

Community can accomplish much more than individuals. Together, with love and compassion, we are strong and safe.

Some of the main challenges are how to adjust to medical events, loss of capacity, strength and the like, in what way, and in what time. There is nothing new in this, these are challenges of life.

We figure it out together, using our best resources.