You've heard of "aging in place"-the term used to describe
elders who choose to grow older right where they are. Now, a
growing movement of retirement villages is taking this concept one
step further, to "aging in community." According to the AARP, some
89% of seniors want to live in their own homes as long as possible.
Done right, retirement villages can help seniors stay at home for
years longer than they might otherwise have been able to, saving
their nest egg for when they need a higher level of care.
A New Senior Housing Option
"Retirement village" the phrase may conjure visions of
gingerbread cottages and ivy-covered porches, or perhaps a gated
55+ community with tennis and golf. But this kind of village isn't
what it sounds like; in fact, it's not even a place at all.
Retirement villages are support structures, networks of neighbors
and volunteers working together to help seniors stay in their
homes. Need your dog walked? A neighbor can help with that.
Plumbing emergency? Volunteer staff can put seniors in touch with
prescreened contractors and handymen who work at a discounted
Members pay annual fees, ranging from several hundred dollars to
as much as $1,000 a year per household-an amount that can seem high
to someone on a fixed income, but still significantly less than the
$2,000-$4,000 monthly costs seniors can expect to pay in many
traditional retirement communities. (Most villages also provide
discounts for low-income seniors.)
In return, seniors get help with the kind of minor day-to-day
tasks that might otherwise force them to move, including:
- Grocery and meal delivery
- Transportation to health care appointments
- Tax advice
- Small household tasks like changing light bulbs or taking down
- Gardening and pruning
- Computer assistance
Many villages also offer cultural activities, exercise classes,
potlucks and social opportunities-all the kinds of amenities
available in traditional senior housing, but accessed from the
comfort and familiarity of a senior's own home. And instead of
being planned by the administrators at a retirement communities,
these activities are generated and planned by the members
themselves, strengthening social and communal ties. Some villages
also hook seniors up with a "buddy" to check on them
Is a Retirement Village Right for You?
The retirement village concept might be a good fit for you
- You feel a powerful connection to your community
- You are very attached to your home
- You value your independence
- You prefer the company of a wide age range of neighbors rather
than just other seniors.
Retirement villages have proved especially popular with baby
boomers, many of whom are both dealing with aging parents and
looking ahead to their own retirements. Ever the
non-traditionalists, boomers like to reinvent society's
institutions, and the grassroots, cooperative nature of the
movement makes a good fit for some.
A retirement village might not be for you if you need extensive
in-home aides or help with bathing, dressing or personal care. It's
also not the best choice if you want your retirement to look like a
vacation, free from chores and responsibilities. For some, the
family home always looks too large once you're on your own, and for
The retirement village concept was pioneered by Boston's Beacon Hill
Village, which started as a group of friends talking about
their own futures in 1999. Today, there are more than 400 members
at Beacon Hill, as well as more than 70 villages built on the same
model around the country.