Consumer Reports - August 2008, page 9
New alliances help seniors
avoid assisted living
Nine out of 10 Americans older than 50 want to stay in their own homes as they age,
AARP statistics show. That desire, coupled with the increasing difficulty of tasks such as
home repairs and driving, has led a growing number of older adults to form "aging in
place" communities: groups of like-minded neighbors who pool resources and expertise
to help one another stay more safely in their homes.
In general such communities provide a combination of social support, health and
wellness programs, and home maintenance assistance. Some, such as Community
Without Walls (www.princetonol.com/groups/cww) in Princeton, N.J., have low fees and
offer mainly social interaction plus limited help with transportation and meals. Others
cost more and offer a fuller menu of services from volunteers and vetted local vendors.
"Different models will work for different communities," says Gail Kohn., executive
director of the 212-member Capitol Hill Village in Washington, D.C.
(www.capitolhillvillage .org). There, $500 per year for an individual ($750 for a
household) buys access, via phone or e-mail to services including transportation to and
from appointments, simple home repairs, help with computer problems, meal preparation,
and gardening, for example. Subsidized memberships are available for lower-income
applicants. When no volunteer is available, members can use screened service
professionals, often for a discount. Members who live alone can sign up for “check in"
calls from a peer. Cultural events offer stimulation and company.
Annual fees for the fullest-service communities can run as high as $900 per
household, not inexpensive but nowhere near the cost of assisted living. The price might
be worth paying for someone who wants the comforts of home and the reassurance that
help, whether it's changing a lightbulb or coping with an injury, is a phone call or e-mail
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Find out about starting a group where you live by going to the Web sites of existing
communities. Try those mentioned above or check out Beacon Hill Village in Boston, the
blue-print for many such communities (www.beaconhillvillage.org; 617 - 723-9713). For
links to existing groups, go to www.aipsupport.org, based in Westchester County; N.Y
For help with home safety modifications, see the AARP’s home-design hub at