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Retirement Villages: Aging in Community

Retirement Villages

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 rate.

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 storm screens
  • 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 regularly. 

Is a Retirement Village Right for You?

The retirement village concept might be a good fit for you if:

  • 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 others 

Learn More 

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.

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