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Villages keep seniors at home

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Posted: 10 am ET

The housing downturn has had an interesting affect on my inner-ring suburban Detroit neighborhood. As housing prices declined, the people buying homes have gotten younger, dividing the blocks into homes owned by newcomer families with young children and homes occupied by older longtime residents, many of whom once thought they would sell and move to someplace warmer.

But as selling a house for a fair price in a neighborhood like mine gets more and more difficult, an increasing number of these older homeowners are choosing to stay put. That comes with its own set of retirement planning challenges. Living in and maintaining an older property can be expensive and difficult as well as socially isolating.

Among the most interesting solutions are the informal senior "villages" where neighbors help neighbors as they age. Forming these villages is a growing trend among boomers who decide their retirement plan is to age in place. There are more than 50 of them nationwide, funded by both grants and membership fees. The villages provide information, companionship and moral support, as well as services like transportation, dog walking and simple home maintenance. They also provide referrals and vet service providers of all sorts.

Village members pay modest fees that range from as little as $25 per year to $600 or more when the services are more extensive. Some villages have paid staff; others are totally run by volunteers. Most are located in upscale neighborhoods.

Village to Village Network, based in Arlington, Va., gives support to the villages and assistance to those interested in starting their own village. The organization is planning its first national meeting Nov. 11 and 12 in Philadelphia. It's open to anyone interested in the concept.

I expect that we'll see more of these kinds of cooperative efforts as the cost of retirement living rises.

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