The Future of Elder Care: Senior Villages

The combined pressures of growing need, rising costs, and altered ideas of the best way to live one’s golden years is leading to a revolution in the look and feel of elder care. To be sure, changes in the way seniors in need receive support are still occurring far too slow for some advocates. But it is undeniable that many seniors now are cared for differently than their parents and the trend will only continue in the coming years and decades.

One common suggestion is that communal living spaces (like nursing homes) are closing and being replaced by a growth in at-home caregivers. While that change is occurring, it oversimplifies the new landscape of seniors care. There are different version of at-home support and even communal living.

Senior Villages
For example, take the “senior village.” As discussed this week in a Washington Post story this week, there has been a surprising rise in a form of minimal but useful at-home support that allows seniors to stay in their own homes. Dubbed “senior villages” the programs are joined by single seniors or older couples for comparatively modest annual dues (often $700-$1000 per year). The funds are used to coordinate volunteers in the area to help provide support to seniors in need of various types of support.

Of course, the most striking difference between this program and others is that it involves use of volunteers–not paid caregivers. This is why the support comes with such a cheaper price tag than professional at-home aids. However, the specific support that volunteers can provide varies considerably. The volunteers often provide random household help from changing lightbulbs to moving groceries. Also, providing transportation is becoming a critical component of many senior village programs.

The villages are usually organized by neighborhoods, with more springing up inside big cities and nearby suburbs. Beyond the basic tasks, the programs also helps senior connect with other paid support services that cannot be provided directly by program volunteers.

One senior participant explains, “It’s not a total substitute for your child, but it’s certainly a substitute for having a child who lives nearby.”

If you are interested in learning more about this “senior village” idea, be sure to check out the national umbrella organization for the project, the “Village to Village Network.” For help understanding how this concept and other options may fit into your overall elder law estate plan, be sure to reach out to an attorney today.

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