Elders living the dream
Part I: Imagine living in place
by Tom deMers with Richard Sanderson
One of the ways we imagine the future is living in a home that we own, one we’ve fully paid for. It doesn’t take a survey to know that, but the AARP did one in 2010 and found that 90% of respondents preferred to live independently in their own home for as long as possible. Why not? It’s our nest, our comfort zone. But the facts indicate that economic necessity will push many of us out of the nest as we get older. And as the many who are getting older—10,000 people turn 65 every day, now and for years to come—are forced to sell the nest, where and how will they live? The landscape of available options is not comforting, but one model called “aging in place” most nearly resembles living independently in a place of one’s own. It’s the model Crestone Peak Community Housing (CPCH) plans to create as Living Wisdom Village in the town of Crestone. Living Wisdom, because that’s what elders embody, a village of elders creating community for the benefit of all.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines Aging in Place (AIP) as the concept of aging in one’s own home safely, comfortably and independently, irrespective of age, ability level or income. Richard Sanderson, AIP national consultant and CPCH board member states, “We are challenged to meet our aging population’s demand for quality living environments. Housing that is affordable, physically accessible, well-located and coordinated with services and supports is difficult to find. The challenge is often complicated when paired with an already developed decline in our capacity to manage activities of daily living (ADL). Communities that develop resources specifically for seniors support their independence and encourage all of us to consider our AIP needs in advance, reducing the risk of homelessness and premature admission to nursing facilities.”
Let’s consider how a population of “homeless” older folks will become a reality. Primarily, the independence they took for granted when they were younger did not last. The body at forty is not the body at sixty; at seventy the word frail begins to apply, and the cost of independent living rises accordingly. Personal assistance becomes necessary, and we’re not even talking about the price of health insurance or costly pharmaceuticals. “The expenses associated with aging in one’s home are often unanticipated and grossly underestimated. To meet the very basic needs associated with daily living a person can expect to pay greater than $20,800 out of pocket each year.” (Sanderson)
In short, the costs of daily living associated with aging—not covered by Medicare because they are not “skilled nursing services”— will drive many persons to sell their homes, leaving them in the position of renters still having to pay for basic support services (ADLs) or send them into the arms of the assisted living industry which will provide ADL services at a basic annual cost of about $43,000. (Sanderson). That said, the dream of living in place is within reach everywhere that creativity and cooperation guide planning. Part Two of this article next month will describe the many flavors of aging in place around the country, as well as the design taking shape for Living Wisdom Village in Crestone.