New programs help elderly stay in their own homes - The Boston Globe
“Most of us have raised our families here. It’s a wonderful community. Why would we want to leave?’’ says Bliss, a native New Yorker who moved to Newton in the late ’60s. “What attracts so many of us is that we’re used to having a lot of say in our lives, and we don’t see why that should be different when we’re 75, 80, 85, or even 90.’’
Residents in Wellesley, Wayland, and Lincoln are organizing similar intentional communities, or villages, as they are often called. Meanwhile, the not-for-profit Carleton-Willard Homes Inc., which owns a retirement village in Bedford, has established a separate division to coordinate an intentional community serving residents in Bedford, Carlisle, Concord, and Lincoln.
The communities intend to supplement, not replace, existing services, such as those provided by councils on aging. They aim to fill in the gaps and offer the personal attention and relationships that are lost as family and friends die or move away.
“This intermediary organization is more like a club, a church, or temple than a government,’’ says Janet Giele, vice president of Wellesley at Home and a retired professor of sociology at the Heller School at Brandeis University. “We are so oriented as a society toward a market, the grocery-shopping approach. You go in and get what you want. The nature of human caregiving is not a grocery-shopping experience. It’s a sense of mutual obligation, of loyalty, of friendship, or a word we never use, love.’’
Launched by Boston’s Beacon Hill Village in 2002, the aging-in-place movement has spread to some 40 cities and towns across the United States. While the evidence is only anecdotal, it has benefited from the downturn in the economy. Because they have trouble selling their homes, some seniors have put off buying into retirement communities, and ravaged stock portfolios make it difficult for them to afford the fees.
By contrast, many intentional communities charge well under $1,000 for annual membership. As much as possible, the communities enlist volunteers to provide services, drawing on students, community and church groups, and the members themselves.