Older adults typically want to live in their own homes for as long as possible. A 2012 report from AARP showed that only 65 percent of persons aged 60-70 and only 43 percent of those aged 70 and older find it very easy to live independently. Besides making physical environments age-friendly, what needs to happen to enable older adults to safely age in place?
Optimize existing communities
Some communities with high concentrations of older adults were designed from scratch to address their needs. However, most age-dense neighborhoods or apartments/condominiums were not; residents have simply grown older and aged in place. The density of older residents in some could allow economies of scale and also ease the provision of in-home services for providers.
Natural helping networks
The strength of grassroots Aging in Place models or strategies relies on the potential for “natural helping networks” to develop and provide informal support to complement more formal health and social services. Informal support from peers typically entails help with “small services,” such as checking up on a neighbor, initiating a “buddy system,” keeping each other updated on local events, providing companionship, or even developing a volunteer corps of peers to address locally defined needs. Engaging in natural helping networks can transform an older adult from a “passive service recipient” to an active contributor to the wellbeing of neighbors and the community.
Natural support systems
For Aging in Place strategies to flourish, we need to develop ways to foster natural support systems in age-dense neighborhoods and apartments or condominiums, and to develop partnerships among the stakeholders of those settings. Such partnerships would include older residents, their peers, volunteers, family, friends, service providers, and building owners and managers. A number of residential managers of local public housing and condominiums in Hawai‘i are taking important first steps by attending brief workshops on various aspects of aging, thus learning to provide more supportive environments for their residents who are aging in place.
A little extra help is often all that is needed for an older resident to age in place. Aging in Place models advocate the use of local peer networks to provide that extra help, to be supplemented by more extensive formal in-home services as needed. Such a community-based approach could result in an affordable and client-based system to keep older persons in their homes and avoid costly and undesired relocations.
Grassroots social support models
Grassroots social models of support such as the Village Model, Cohousing, and Age-Friendly Cities and Communities represent some of the latest efforts to strengthen social environments to allow older adults to live in their homes for as long as desired.
The Village Model
World Health Organization
CENTER ON AGING — University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
2430 Campus Road, Gartley Hall, 201B, Honolulu HI 96822