Over the years, the number of retirement homes or nursing homes have been increasing across America. However, most Americans say that given the choice, they prefer to stay at home as they age.
According to Dr. Bill Thomas, the founder of ChangingAging.org, emphasis should be put not merely on “aging in place”, or simply aging where one is, but also to aging in a community. This means building not only retirement homes and services but community support systems that accommodate elders and allow them to live their full potential.
One such example of how aging in community is put into action can be found Sewanee, Tennessee. Here, community members have formed a network called Folks at Home, which does information and referrals, connects both volunteers and members and coordinates access to services for and by elders. Through this network, the cost of support for elders is greatly reduced and made more efficient. In addition, elders are given opportunities to participate in their own communities helping them retain a sense of connection and fulfillment.
“You do not age out of usefulness,” says Kathleen O’Donohue, the Executive Director of Folks at Home. “You are always a valuable asset to your community.”
This idea is not just lip service. Folks at Home taps into a valuable asset that communities miss from placing elders in retirement homes: the experience, wisdom and mentorship that can often only come with age.
Watch this video to witness the value of encouraging a diverse community of people.
Besides Folks at Home, there is an increasing number of senior village communities spreading across the US. Check out this other article Aging In Place Senior Village Networks Forming Nationwide. The support from other community members and volunteers is invaluable, whether it is help with a simple task or receiving a little more human warmth and contact.
This support network can be helpful in case of emergencies, such as when an unexpected fall happens. Seniors who are medical alert system users can press his or her medical alert button and request for another community member living nearby to be alerted.