Have you ever wondered to yourself what life looks like once the kids are raised, out of the house and raising families of their own; or what you’ll be doing years after retirement? Many people say they’re not quite sure that should look like; no one knows, after all, how long they’ll live and who they might outlive. It’s overwhelming at times, but one country has a solution that is the epitome of “win –win”. The question is, could aging in place look like this in the US at some point?
Living Well and Aging in Place
One college student, along with five of her college classmates, have opted to move into a retirement home and have elderly residents as their housemates. The students pay no rent and in return for their free room and board, they must spend at least 30 hours a month with the residents. They do what the staff cannot do: they hang out, have long conversations, take them shopping (or shop for them if they are unable to leave the residence), play games and watch television.
The young people get the priceless time that’s full of insight, conversations with people who have the wisdom we all wish we had as young adults and a host of life lessons that will serve them well throughout their own lives. The elderly residents get the benefits of the conversation, time well spent, the youthful energy that the students bring and an opportunity to “shake things up” a bit. Their days are no longer monotonous. The staff benefit, too. Most in the healthcare industry say they wish they had more time and some even say it hurts their hearts that they are unable to linger with a patient who might need a bit more attention.
Gea Sijpkes, the head of the Humanitas retirement home in the Netherlands says, “It’s important not to isolate the elderly from the outside world.” She goes on to say, “When you’re in your mid-90s with a knee problem, the knee isn’t going to get any better and doctors are limited in what they can do. But what this program can do is create an environment where residents are able to forget about the painful knee, even for a little while.” And that’s exactly what’s happening.
In many European countries, there are a host of retirement homes that are unable to accommodate a growing population. Not only that, but the Dutch government has made it difficult for many to qualify for a place, which means many rooms are vacant. It’s a case of no matter what you do, it’s sometimes never enough. But the roommate idea resonates in a country that includes many who are vehement in their volunteerism. What worked with the pilot retirement home is now being expanded to others in the countries. They’re known as “intergenerational” projects.
So successful has it been, some elderly are now able to remain in their homes and have invited young students to live with them. It creates the same benefits as those enjoy in their retirement homes.
In fact, there are even housing projects springing up that are built specifically for the young and elderly to co-exist under the same roof in maximum comfort.
In some schemes, the elderly rent out a room in their own house or apartment, in others, housing projects are built specifically to house the young with the elderly. In Britain, a commission chaired by a former minister recommended in September that new housing for the elderly and disabled should be incorporated into shopping developments, new apartment blocks and even universities to prevent the elderly from being cut off in “care ghettoes”.
“The old model saw care homes as isolated institutions where things were done to you rather than for you and were islands of misery,” said former care minister Paul Burstow. These solutions are eliminating that reality with great success.
Would this be a viable solution for America’s elderly? It’s an interesting concept and one that could be explored in the future. With the proper powers of attorney in place for the elderly – to protect their assets, for instance, – along with other safety mechanisms for both sides, this could be a viable and successful movement. To learn more about the role of a financial or medical power of attorney, we invite you to contact our offices today.
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