Aging in Place - Solutions Abound - What Are We Waiting For?

My mother is returning home this week, triumphant in her recovery from a shattered hip – the result of “wet foot meets tile floor.”

After eight weeks in a rehabilitation facility, she is maneuvering well with both walker and cane. She returns to my dad in their home three hours from here. And together, they will begin to figure out what their “new normal” is.  For sure, it will be different.  Everything will require an examination of how best to do it now, and in some instances, what to give up. This runs the gamut from the day-to-day tasks done without thinking – cooking, cleaning, and running errands, to the other activities that make up a full life - volunteering, exercising and social engagements.  They will need to consider getting help from others, both formally and informally.

It won’t be easy.

The fact that I won’t be there until a week later bothered me at first. Then I considered that it was probably better for them to get their bearings without my scrutiny and well-intended but over abundant advice.   They are adamant about staying in their home and maintaining their independence; that comes as no surprise to me.  The Aging with Dignity & Independence initiative research revealed aging in place as one of the six integral themes. Older adults want to live in the least restrictive, most independent way as possible. Not unlike many of us at any age. The greater challenge for the older adult is maintaining the ability to stay in one’s home.

A host of issues can get in the way – from declining health or increased frailty making the care and maintenance of home more difficult, to increased isolation if transportation or physical mobility is limited, to financial concerns making it impossible to make ends meet, cover basic necessities and pursue interests.   There are many approaches that can help older adults age in place; some innovative ideas that could take root in Sarasota County.

HomeShare Vermont offers screening and matching services to older adults or those with disabilities.  The options include home sharing services, live-in caregiving or hourly caregiving.  HomeShare Florida  is  a new nonprofit  in Sarasota County in the early stage of securing funding and developing programs, one of which is Share-A-Home.  Seniors Helping Seniors is also a matching program, matching seniors who want to provide help with seniors who are looking for help in the home.  Services provided could include companion or home maintenance services. The cost is reasonable for the homeowner and the helper earns a reasonable wage.

Beacon Hill Village is a membership organization that coordinates services to seniors who prefer to remain in their own home rather than move to a facility with a higher level of care. Beacon Hill Village began in 2001 and has developed resource manuals available to communities interested in starting a Village. The Village to Village Network is an online resource that helps communities establish and manage their own Villages.  Beacon Hill Village likes to say, "If you've seen one Village, you've seen one Village."   This attests to the wonderful beauty of the variations that occur as new Villages develop in response to their own locale and the lived-experiences of their residents. I admit surprise when I surveyed the map of Villages and discovered there is only one in the making in Florida. This seems like a natural opportunity for areas in Sarasota County. In the City of Venice, 57% of the population is age 65 and over. In the Town of Longboat Key, that figure is 67%. As a whole, Sarasota County has nearly one-third of the population age 65+. With the desire to age in place held by many, it seems demand is present. What might it take to create local versions of a village organization? Who might want to lead the way? What are we waiting for?