Elders Spark a Social Revolution
Cohen, Andrea, Willett, Judy, Aging Today
Suzanne Stark is an 82-year-old author and freelance writer with an enviable social and professional life. At work on her latest assignment, she fills her days with research, committee meetings and stimulating social activities. Stark has heart problems and a fractured foot, which make it challenging to do daily chores, but she knows she has ready access to help. She simply makes a call to Beacon Hill Village (BHV), the membership organization that she and her neighbors created so they could enjoy the support of a retirement community witfiout having to move.
From the beginning, Stark embraced the concept, attending several planning meetings before BHV was launched in 2002; she continues to serve on its standing committees. Her involvement protects her from two problems mat often lead to premature loss of independence: social isolation and lack of needed services. "Because I'm in my 80s, so many of my friends have died or moved away," she explains. "The Village has given me a whole new set of friends."
Beacon Hill Village has sparked a social revolution, inspiring dozens of groups to launch similar ventures nationwide. Known as "intentional communities," these consumer-led groups share a common vision of a community where members can age in place. Like Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), intentional communities embrace the strategy of bringing services to people rather than moving people to services. Intentional communities differ from NORCs, which mostly originate from me aging network, in mat they are created by consumers taking direct charge of their future.
THE ORIGINAL MODEL
Beacon Hill Village is a thriving organization with 460 members, ages 50 and over, who live throughout central Boston. Its Board of Directors, comprised of 1 1 founding members, oversees the organization and retains control over die Village's policies, programming and planning. There are annual membership fees of varied amounts for individuals and families, with some membership subsidies available that are covered by continual fundraising efforts.
The cornerstones of BHV's appeal are one-stop shopping and community. Services and programs include social and cultural events; transportation and concierge services; home maintenance, repair and adaptation; and comprehensive homecare offered by House Works, the Village's preferred homecare provider and initial strategic partner. Some services, like weekly grocery transportation and social activities, are covered by membership fees. Others are available on a fee-for-service basis, often at a pre-negotiated discount.
In the daytime hours, the Village staff arranges for any services that members might request. They use a pool of thoroughly vetted providers along with volunteer resources. After hours, members can call House Works for any homecare needs and receive immediate response. The availability of 24-hour homecare makes it possible for members to live at home for as long as possible, which is BHV's fundamental purpose.
Currently, only 5% of BHV members receive homecare from HouseWorks, though homecare is readily available whenever it is needed. One founding member who now relies on private-pay homecare says, "Having access to quality care is something you dream about when making plans. Then all of a sudden, plans become reality. It's been a delight that the goals we set have been more than realized by organizations like HouseWorks."
This man's experience as a BHV founder and care beneficiary offers important clues about the eldercare marketplace. People who found intentional communities are determined to take control of their future: they are not in denial about aging, and want a choice of eldercare living options. This proactive population does not believe that Medicare will meet its needs and does not expect experts to solve its problems. Accustomed to paying for convenience, those who are involved in building intentional communities are willing to pay for the services they'll need to age in place. …