I came across a wonderful story in the NY Times on a unique community project taking place in Boston, Massachusetts. Beacon Hill Village, an innovative non-profit organization, was created by and for local residents who want to grow old in their familiar surroundings. Members pay dues and must live in either the Beacon Hill or Back Bay neighborhoods.
Beacon Hill Village originated with a dozen civic-minded residents of this neighborhood of 19th-century gas lamps, red brick sidewalks and ancient elms. They all wanted to remain at home, even after transportation and household chores became difficult or dangerous, the point at which many older people quit familiar surroundings. They also wanted to avoid dependence on adult children.
These are older adults who do not want to live in senior residences or nursing homes. This is a wish I hear expressed often by the seniors I work with; wanting to stay in their familiar home environment while not being a burden to their adult children.
Five years ago, Beacon Hill Village was a wish, not a plan. Today, it has 340 members ages 52 to 98, an annual budget of $300,000, an executive director and staff, a stable of established service providers and enough foundation support to subsidize moderate or low-income members, who number one-fifth of the total. The annual fee is $550 for an individual and $780 for a household, plus the additional cost of discounted “à la carte” services.
Membership covers weekly trips to the supermarket, transportation provided by volunteers, group exercise classes, and lectures on age related topics. Paid services like home repair and home care assistance are available at reduced rates. Beacon Hill will publish a how-to manual next month as a way to guide others through the complexity of creating a business plan and surveying community needs. The belief is this model could easily be replicated elsewhere.
Some of the best ideas come from real-life experience. I hope to read more articles on this topic and see more communities implementing a similar program.
Written by Victoria Brewster, MSW
Staff Writer in Canada