I've been interested in recent articles about alternatives to institutionalized living for the elderly who live alone and don't have adult children to look in on them and/or to take them to doctor's appointments, grocery shopping, etc. Recently, the New York Times published an article by Jane Gross about an experiment in Boston. There, elderly residents became members of Beacon Hill Village, a unique non-profit organization created by and for neighborhood residents in the Back Bay and Beacon hill neighborhoods. This organization's goal is to keep seniors out of nursing homes and allow them to grow old in their own homes.
Here’s an example of the types of services the elderly members of Beacon Hill Village can expect to have—services that allow them to stay in walk-up apartments and homes—services that are only a phone call away:
· Transportation to and from the hospital.
· An advocate who will accompany the senior to medical appointments.
· Meals from favorite restaurants, delivered to the home.
· Someone to drive a member to the bank, the beauty parlor, church.
· Someone to install grab bars in the bathroom.
· Someone to figure out the best way to get help in an emergency.
· Group exercise classes
· Lectures on issues related to aging
· People who will drop by for a visit.
The services described above are provided without charge to members. Other kinds of services such as home maintenance or repair, home health aides, physical therapists and personal trainers, etc. are provided in the residents’ homes by companies recruited by the association. Those services are discounted at a rate of 10 to 50 percent of the “going rate.”
Beacon Hill Village, an innovative nonprofit organization created by and for seniors living in the Back Bay and Beacon Hill neighborhoods of Boston, provides all of the above kinds of services. As a result, local residents can realize their goal of growing old in familiar surroundings. Beacon Hill Village is another great model that allows seniors to age in place. This organization, like The Glacier Circle—featured in my November 7th Record Eagle Aging in Place post—shows how innovative seniors can be in designing alternatives to nursing homes and assisted living centers run by large service providers. Who said communal living is only for hippies! Or, are people who were young during the 60s—people who by thinking young are still young at the age of 80—exactly those that we’d expect to come up with such a creative idea?
A dozen civic-minded residents of the gas-lit neighborhood with its steep hills and red brick sidewalks and—in my experience—shortage of parking places, came up with the plan for Beacon Hill Village. The plan might be difficult to translate in areas with low-income families. The non-profit has 340 members aged from 52 to 98. It has an annual budget of $300,000, an executive director, staff, and some establish service providers. Support from foundations is used to subsidize moderate to low-income members. The members pay an annual fee of $550 for an individual ($780 for a household), and they pay, of course the additional cost of discounted services such as those described above.
AARP has praised the model community and dozens of other communities are taking a hard look at its business plan in an effort to bring the model home to their residents. Beacon Hill Village has published a manual explaining how to set up similar plans in other communities. The manual shows others how to create a business plan and how to determine community needs. It will also describe mistakes Beacon Hill Village made along the way as well as its successes. The cost of the manual is $300 for nonprofit organizations and neighborhood groups and $500 for municipalities and for-profit organizations. Consults services will be offered in addition at a cost of $1,200/day. Beacon Hill Village will reinvest its revenues in its own association.
Beacon Hill Village was founded by retired business executives with connections to foundations, to Mass General, and to other medical providers. Foundations and private donors have provided much of the funds needed to make this dream a reality. It’s been featured in the New York Times, the AARP Bulletin, the Wall Street Journal, and on the CBS Evening News as well as many other publications.
You can read the New York Times article here: Aging at Home: For a Lucky Few, a Wish Come True
Some of the folks who’ve looked at Beacon Hill Village say that this model could be successful in communities around the country and could be funded by municipalities or by federal funding. The U.S. Administration on Aging already provides many coordinated services to folks aging in place around the country. Some few states are using Medicaid vouchers that seniors can use to pay for in-home services in efforts to delay nursing home care.
Wouldn’t it be great if some local civic-minded, creative people would embrace a plan like Beacon Hill Village and become part of the planned roundtable discussions to see if such a model could be brought to our community?
How about it? Is that entrepreneur you? Is it your neighbor? Leave me a comment below with your ideas about innovative ways to meet the needs of seniors in our community who want to grow old in their own homes. If you have another idea for alternatives and for aging in place, please write and tell us. If you are new to Aging in Place, here’s a link to my first post. It explains who I am and why I advocate for the elderly. You can also read more on my website at www.goodmedicalcare.com