Life is sweet at home

‘Villages’ Let Elderly Grow Old At Home in Bellevue WA

‘Villages’ Let Elderly Grow Old At Home
By Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY

The explosive growth of the USA’s older population is fueling a grass-roots "village" movement in neighborhoods across the country to help people age in their own homes.

More than 50 villages in a neighbor-helping-neighbor system have sprouted in the past decade from California and Colorado to Nebraska and Massachusetts. They are run largely by volunteers and funded by grants and membership fees to provide services from transportation and grocery delivery to home repairs and dog walking.

Most villages have opened in the past couple of years, an indication that the momentum is growing in the face of a demographic tsunami: The number of Americans 65 and older is expected to more than double to 89 million by 2050, according to the Census Bureau.

The oldest of 79 million Baby Boomers turn 65 next year, a turning point that will begin to put pressure on social services, retirement homes and assisted-living facilities.

The "village" concept is taking off in small and big cities and suburbs across the country as the percentage of elderly rises while the share of the working-age population that supports them declines. The percentage of people 65 and older is projected to climb from 13% today to 19% by 2050, while the share of adults age 20 to 64 is expected to drop from 60% to 55%, the Census Bureau says.

"We will hit a really pivotal point," says Julie Maggioncalda, a University of Pennsylvania geriatric social work student who is interning at the Capitol Hill Village in Washington, D.C. Nursing homes won’t be able to handle all the elderly, she says.

"We simply don’t have enough space, and if we don’t have a village, that burden will fall on families," Maggioncalda says.

AARP research shows that 90% of people want to grow old in their home and community.

"Villages are one way people can lead the life they want to live," says Mimi Castaldi, AARP vice president for volunteer engagement. "They’ve caught the imagination of people."

How villages operate:

•Residents pay a membership fee that varies from $25 to $600 or more a year, depending on the types of services members want. Some villages have paid staff members; others are run completely by volunteers.

•Most villages are opening in more upscale neighborhoods in cities and suburbs, but they all provide discount dues for lower-income elderly.

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In Seattle WA, Andelcare helps many families care for their aging loved ones. For more information, please visit www.andelcare.com.