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Charles Kauffman CEO Atty. Ret.     
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Archive for May, 2011

AGING AT HOME – DOWNTOWN

AGING AT HOME DOWNTOWN – The new option for “Empty Nesters”
An article in the December 2005 AARP Bulletin about “Beacon Hill Village” had profound effects on retirement living. It described an association founded in Boston conceived by Susan McWhinney Morse to enable older adults to “age in place’ rather than moving to senior housing. Essentially it provided the services of assisted living but in your own home. To join and receive needed assistance, you paid a membership fee and receive free or discounted support services in your own home. The key was “one stop shopping”. By calling a “concierge” you could access anything from replacing a light bulb, to advice and assistance with Alzheimer’s. It included a number of necessary services such as household help and homemaking (cleaning, grocery shopping, errands, and meals), personal assistance, companionship, and nursing care plus social, health and cultural activities. The “Village” movement spread throughout the US with many variations, some involving non-dues paying membership, increasing reliance on volunteers, communal housing and more. It is still growing and that is good.
Older adults are showing more flexibility in their choices. The most profound change effecting the “village” – remain in your old home- concept is the increasing desire to move to urban areas. Districts which are doing more to create housing that enhances the lives of empty nesters are thriving.
One of the highest priorities of empty nesters is to live in a neighborhood near their families and friends. Lately more older adults find that high-rise apartments and duplex town houses are “age friendly” offer ease of maintenance, nearby shopping, more convenience, better transportation options, more walkability, Older adults seek homes where there is life, energy and a wealth of choices – more easily accessible. They want the intergenerational mix and they want their independence. They find that living without stairs is safer, maintenance is cheaper, and the need for driving is less, they can get by with one or no cars. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal cites Bethesda as one of the top ten “walkable communities”, as is Arlington, Rockville, Friendship Heights and Tysons.
Jane Jacobs said “the presence of great numbers of people, gathered together in cities should be enjoyed as an asset and their presence celebrated”. Suburbs which have prospered, share the attributes of walkability, vibrant street life, density and diversity with urban neighborhoods. Theresa Brewer put it another way:
When you’re alone
And life is making you lonely,
You can always go downtown.
Government can certainly help … changing zoning and housing regulations to encourage “mixed” commercial and residential use, more open spaces, safer pedestrian cross walks, bikeways, better lighting, more public spaces, more accessible public transportation, greater expansion of “universal design’ concepts, more moderately priced senior housing. Multifamily dwellings increase tax derived revenue for government, maintenance of infrastructure to service multifamily dwellings is less, Medicaid and related care and transportation costs for government are reduced when care is given in a patient’s own home rather than in a nursing facility. Thus government can afford to provide more of the health, recreational and social amenities older adults enjoy.
Government alone cannot create great places to live and grow older – private sector businesses, retailers, developers, academic institutions, health care organizations, social service providers, architects, religious and civic institutions must work together to make downtown neighborhoods more age-friendly. Aging in Place has evolved and the demand for ‘empty nester” housing is rapidly growing. Capitalizing on it involves energetic, pragmatic, public and private collaboration.
Charles Kauffman

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