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All too many times overwhelmed caregivers are physically and emotionally depleted and need to take time to rest and care for themselves. Believing in a holistic approach to caregiver stress and a strong commitment to helping our members find the right solutions, we created this blog to help you connect with others who, like you, may be facing the same eldercare issues and challenges. Feel free to comment, ask questions, and submit articles. Please forward the blog link to your family and friends. They'll be glad you did.

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Patricia Grace
founder & CEO
Aging with Grace

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Aging in Place...still the option of choice.

Retirement communities may have their perks, but Beryl O'Connor says it would be tough to match the birthday surprise she got in her own backyard when she turned 80 this year.

She was tending her garden when two little girls from next door — "my buddies," she calls them — brought her a strawberry shortcake. It underscored why she wants to stay put in the house that she and her husband, who died 18 years ago, purchased in the late 1970s.

"I couldn't just be around old people — that's not my lifestyle," she said. "I'd go out of my mind."

Physically spry and socially active, O'Connor in many respects is the embodiment of "aging in place," growing old in one's own longtime home and remaining engaged in the community rather than moving to a retirement facility.

People have long wondered about the purpose of dreams. But scientists say they now know: they sooth the sting out of troubling memories. And when dreams don’t do their job, horrific memories can take over a person’s life, as they do with PTSD, a new study suggests.

According to surveys, aging in place is the overwhelming preference of Americans over 50. But doing it successfully requires both good fortune and support services — things that O'Connor's pleasant hometown of Verona has become increasingly capable of providing.

About 10 miles northwest of Newark, Verona has roughly 13,300 residents nestled into less than 3 square miles. There's a transportation network that takes older people on shopping trips and to medical appointments, and the town is benefiting from a $100,000 federal grant to put in place an aging-in-place program called Verona LIVE.

Administrated by United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey, the program strives to educate older people about available services to help them address problems and stay active in the community. Its partners include the health and police departments, the rescue squad, the public and public schools, and religious groups.

Among the support services are a home maintenance program with free safety checks and minor home repairs, access to a social worker and job counselor, a walking club and other social activities. In one program, a group of middle-school girls provided one-on-one computer training to about 20 older adults.

Social worker Connie Pifher, Verona's health coordinator, said a crucial part of the overall initiative is educating older people to plan ahead realistically and constantly reassess their prospects for successfully aging in place.

"There are some people who just can do it, especially if they have family support," said Pifher, "And then you run into people who think they can do it, yet really can't. You need to start educating people before a crisis hits."

There's no question that aging in place has broad appeal. According to an Associated Press - LifeGoesStrong.com poll conducted in October, 52 percent of baby boomers said they were unlikely to move someplace new in retirement. In a 2005 survey by AARP, 89 percent of people age 50 and older said they would prefer to remain in their home indefinitely as they age.

That yearning, coupled with a widespread dread of going to a nursing home, has led to a nationwide surge of programs aimed at helping people stay in their neighborhoods longer.

Verona LIVE is a version of one such concept: the Naturally Occurring Retirement Community, or NORC. That can be either a specific housing complex or a larger neighborhood in which many of the residents have aged in place over a long period of time and need a range of support services in order to continue living in their homes.

Verona is an apt setting. Roughly 20 percent of its residents are over 65, compared with 13 percent for New Jersey as a whole.

Another notable initiative is the "village" concept. Members of these nonprofit entities can access specialized programs and services, such as transportation to stores, home health care, or help with household chores, as well as a network of social activities with other members.

About 65 village organizations have formed in the U.S. in recent years, offering varying services and charging membership fees that generally range between $500 and $700 a year.

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