Age in Place for a Happy, Fulfilled Retirement

One of the biggest decisions you’ll face in retirement, probably early on, is whether to move from the home you may have lived in for decades.  There are a lot of factors to consider. Imagine a piece of paper with two columns, one headed “stay” and the other headed “go.” On the “go” side of the ledger you might write:  reduce my property taxes, live in a smaller house without so many stairs, live someplace warmer and other reasons. On the “stay” side you might write: all my friends live here, I don’t want to start all over somewhere else, when the weather’s bad (too hot or too cold) I can spend a month someplace else.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?  Why Not “Age in Place”!

Now there’s another reason to stay, and that’s the burgeoning “aging in place” movement in the United States, a grassroots movement led mostly by citizen groups who have formed local organizations to help each other stay in their homes as long as possible.  Though national organizations now exist to help support these local groups, the real action in this movement is hyper-local.

Two organizations, one in Massachusetts and the other in New Jersey, were the pioneers in the aging in place movement.  Beacon Hill Village, founded in 1999, enrolled its first members in 2002 and describes itself as “a member-driven organization for Boston residents 50 and over” providing “programs and services so members can lead vibrant, active and healthy lives, while living in their own homes and neighborhoods.”  For an annual individual membership fee of $675, Beacon Hill Village members have access to a slate of cultural, educational, and social events, as well as discounts from services ranging from home handymen to gym memberships, all carefully vetted by Village staff.

Community Without Walls, in Princeton, N.J., has a similar purpose as a “person-to-person social network providing members with opportunities for social interaction, mutual assistance, and access to other support resources, helping us to remain active members of our communities as we age.”  Founded in 1992, Community Without Walls (CWW) has grown to 450 members organized into chapters with 50 to 100 members each. (Why 50 to 100?  Perhaps “Dunbar’s number” provides an explanation.)  CWW describes its dues as “modest”; unlike Beacon Hill Village, it doesn’t have a paid staff.

200 Aging in Place Villages So Far, 150 In Development

It’s difficult to say how many aging in place organizations there are in the United States, but the Village to Village Network says there are more than 200 open “villages” and another 150 in development.  My suburban Boston town, Lexington, Mass., has a member-driven organization called Lexington at Home with annual dues of $25.  The website of the National Aging In Place Council (NAIPC) lists 19 local chapters in places ranging from Naples, Fla., Kansas City, and Columbus, Ohio, to Minneapolis and many California locations.

Nothing in Your Area?  Start Your Own!

To find out if there’s an aging in place organization in your community check the NAIPC local chapter list or the Village to Village Network’s interactive map, contact your state or local senior service agency, or start Googling!  If there’s nothing in your own area, you and your friends can take matters into your own hands as others around the country have in starting their own organizations.  For inspiration, try reading Beth Baker’s book “With a Little Help from Our Friends:  Creating Community as We Grow Older,” and for more practical guidance you can order Beacon Hill Village’s (very expensive) “Founder’s Manual.”  Starting your own aging in place organization will add purpose to as well as launch a whole new chapter of your life in retirement.    

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