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A growing number of retiring Washingtonians are opting to stay in their own homes and “age in place” rather than move to senior communities. And the number of organizations created to help them stay put is exploding. We’ll learn more about the challenges of choosing to remain independent and the resources that are available.
- Virginia Hodgkinson President, Mount Vernon at Home
- Miriam Kelty Lead Coordinator, Bannockburn Neighbors Assisting Neighbors
- Andy Mollison President, Palisades Village
- Elinor Ginzler Senior Vice President for Livable Communities Strategies, AARP
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Washingtonians, we all know, are a unique breed of people, independent, involved, maybe even a little type A, and that doesn't change when they retire. Several years ago, retirees all over the region began creating organizations to help themselves and their neighbors age in place. The idea is to stay in your home and remain plugged in to your local community. And after several years of work, our region is one of the top in the country, second only to San Francisco, in terms of the number of organizations designed to help people age in place.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIn this hour, we're going to talk with the leaders of three aging-in-place organizations in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. We'll find out how they did it. And if you're someone who's aging in place, we'd like to hear your story as well. You can start calling now, 800-433-8850. Joining us in studio is Andy Mollison, president of Palisades Village in Washington, D.C. Andy, thank you for joining us.
MR. ANDY MOLLISONGlad to be here.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Miriam Kelty, lead coordinator with the Bannockburn Neighbors Assisting Neighbors in Maryland. Miriam Kelty, thank you for joining us.
MS. MIRIAM KELTYThank you.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Virginia Hodgkinson, president of the Mount Vernon at Home in Virginia. Virginia, good to have you here.
MS. VIRGINIA HODGKINSONThank you.
NNAMDIJoining us by telephone from Orlando is Elinor Ginzler, senior vice president for Livable Communities Strategies with AARP. Elinor Ginzler, thank you for joining us.
MS. ELINOR GINZLERMy pleasure to be with you.
NNAMDILet's begin with your personal stories. First you, Andy. Why did you decide that you wanted age in place, as it is called, rather than retiring and moving to somewhere like Florida or Arizona?
MOLLISONWell, we moved to our house for the same reason most people do, which is that we loved it and we've been there now 30 years. I went to a local citizen's association meeting and watched a panel discussion. And it was just two weeks after I had written all of my freelance clients and said I'm officially retiring, and they hooked me. (laugh) I saw the presentation by the people who were just starting a village in our neighborhood which is in D.C...
MOLLISON...and I got involved. And a few months later, I got on aboard.
NNAMDIBefore that, did you contemplate at all moving elsewhere?
MOLLISONNo, I was trying to figure out how -- mostly my wife and I, we're trying to figure out how we could avoid having to move somewhere else. We wanna live in our homes, as does -- do 9 out 10 older Americans if you check any surveys. We wanna stay in our own homes. The question is, can we do it safely and comfortably? And can we stay connected with the community?
NNAMDIMiriam Kelty, what influenced you to make that decision to stay at home, age in place?
KELTYWell, like Andy, I really like living in this area. My husband and I talked about where we would like to be. And we feel that the resources available to us in the D.C. area are just unbeatable. We're sort of hooked on museums and theater. We go to museums. We usher at a lot of theaters. And we live in a very interesting and terrific community that has a real sense of community. It was started by a group of people as an intentional community after World War II. And it's a place where people know one another and get together and socialize with one another and help one another. So we thought this is a good place to age in place.
KELTYAnd I am a psychologist by training. And I worked for more than 20 years at the National Institute on Aging. So I'm very familiar with the fact that the population segment over 85 is the fastest growing population segment in this country. And that, repeatedly, all the research literature shows that people, if they had their druthers, prefer to remain in their own communities, and as Andy said, to a very large extent, in their own houses.
NNAMDIVirginia Hodgkinson, what influenced your decision?
HODGKINSONWell, similarly to Andy and Miriam, my husband and I love this area and we've lived here for about 30 years now and we wanted to stay. And we wanted to stay in our own home. In about a year after I retired, there was a group in one of our neighborhoods that were intrigued by Beacon Hill, which was one of the first founded. And they got together and they decided, let's see if we can try it in a suburb. So we're the first village in Virginia. It offers a lot of challenges because it's different than a very confined geographical location. And so, this group got together to see if they could do it. They found it in 2007 and started operating in 2009 after detailed planning and educational meetings with people throughout our 14 square mile area in Mount Vernon. So it's been quite an interesting learning experience.
NNAMDIIt's been a journey so far.
NNAMDIAgain, if you are a part of that journey in your own neighborhood or would like to be and would like to know what resources are available, you can call us at 800-433-8850. You can go to our website kojoshow.org, share your experience and ask a question there. Send us a tweet @kojoshow or an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Elinor Ginzler, we have this image in our country that people flock to sunny places far from their original homes when they retire. Is that still the predominant choice for most people as the baby boom generation starts to retire?
GINZLERThat's a great point and a really important one. I think there is somewhat of a national myth out there. In fact, the data shows exactly what the folks in the studio have already acknowledged. People tell us regularly on our surveys, when we poll the public, they want to stay where they are. They like where they are. They want to remain in their homes. Nine out of ten is exactly that statistic. And if you actually analyze Census data, you find that this is one of those times where people's actions match their words because, in fact, if you look at both the 1990 Census and the 2000 Census, less than 10 percent of the 60-plus population had moved within the five years preceding that Census being taken. So this is without a doubt a movement that makes so much sense because people like where they are, and they do want to stay. And the village movement really provides the kind of support system that's gonna make that staying where you are be a really successful one.
NNAMDII don't know, Andy, but it seems to me that many people's retirement choices are made as a reaction in a way against the options their own parents had. Is that true in your case?
MOLLISONWell, my parents stayed in their own home as long as possible. That was in a small town in Michigan, and I'm gonna say this, it's not just staying in your own home. It's partly staying in your own neighborhood. We're not saying this is the only way to go. We're just saying this is for people who wanted to do this. Other people would like to go to a place where it's seniors only, and they don't hear the noise of kids. We are the kind of people who like seeing tricycles on the sidewalk.
NNAMDIYou like the neighborhood. As I was thinking earlier, you are, in a way, the center of the neighborhood.
MOLLISONAnd we get through Palisades Village and through the other villages. We are contributing to the community. It isn't -- this isn't a social service agency where nice professional people are helping poor helpless old people. This is old people helping each other. This is people of all ages, neighbors of -- our youngest volunteer is 4 years old.
GINZLERI want to...
NNAMDIWait, wait, wait. You got a 4-year-old volunteer?
MOLLISONWe do. The River School is a school that's in our area, and a group from there called the Bobcats, which is one of the preschool classes, goes over and visits our oldest member, who's 96 years old. And they go over, and they visit her, and they sing songs for her, which is helpful to them because some of the kids at the River School are deaf or very hard of hearing, and the singing helps them. And then, she has milk and cookies and offers it to them.
NNAMDII love it. Miriam, can you talk a little bit of how the basics on how your organization works?
KELTYYes. Our organization started when one woman who lives in the neighborhood had had some health issues as did her husband at the same time, and she sent an e-mail message on our neighborhood ListServe, saying that between them, she thought they had one good leg, and they'd like to stay in their home. And they were able to do so during this period of temporary disability impairment because caring neighbors shopped for them, brought them food and visited them. And she wondered if anybody else was interested in making this possible, and I was the one who responded. And I said, "Yes." I thought it was a very important thing to do, but I also was very committed to an intergenerational concept in an organization.
KELTYAnd I think, as Andy does, that older people in the community can assist younger families. I remember as a working mother how awful the hour was between five or whenever I got home from work and dinner was on the table. For some reason, the kids were convinced that there was never going to be another meal, and everybody was ready to tell me what they did for their day. And it would have been wonderful to have somebody help during that hour. There are also other areas. Financial advice in which older people can advise younger families. Emergency babysitting. So I said, "Yes, I would be very interested in getting involved in this effort, provided that it was an intergenerational organization, and that we made it clear that we all had something to contribute to one another."
NNAMDIYour organization is run by volunteers. You do not charge any fees to your members at all?
KELTYWe don't even have members.
NNAMDIHow does Mount Vernon at Home in Virginia work, Virginia Hodgkinson?
HODGKINSONWell, Mount Vernon at Home in Virginia does have members, and we have a part of a challenge because we're in a suburb, and our area is 14 square miles. We do have membership fees. We now have about, well, 130. One member and 90 households and 24 different neighborhoods.
HODGKINSONAnd we have 75 vetted volunteers that go out and help people and provide services from transportation to household repairs. One of our most popular services it seems this year is helping people with their computer problems. So -- and then, we organize groups because in a suburb you have a problem of distance, so transportation becomes extremely important, and we've been very fortunate to have over 20 volunteers that do transportation. So we take people to the doctor. We take them shopping. We take them to excursions that we put on or even to visit a friend, and this helps them live safely and conveniently in their own homes because part of the problem is isolation.
NNAMDIIf you are ageing in place, you can call us at 800-433-8850, tell us what resources are available to you or what resources you'd like to see available to you. Here is Iris in Washington, D.C. Iris, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
IRISHello. Thanks, Kojo. I'm calling because I'm on the executive board of the DuPont Circle Village, and I think we may be the second largest in the D.C. region -- not region but D.C. itself. And there's a couple of points I wanted to make that I think are really interesting about the intergenerational action, which is very important. All of their volunteers -- well, most of their volunteers are in their 30s and 40s, and so they -- there is a great deal of interaction between the two groups and it's brought the neighborhood closer. And the second thing I wanted to point out is, when we started we thought that services were going to be the most important thing, and that's providing transportation to medical appointments, running errands, that kind of thing. But what we really found is that our social activities are equally as important if not more so. There are so many people who become isolated when they live alone, and so we started group lunches and dinners and activities in the early evening. And that's been a great success, and people have really come out of their shells in many ways. So I think the village is a very important movement.
NNAMDIThank you very much for sharing that with us, Iris. Andy, what are some of the most popular services that people in Palisades Village request?
MOLLISONWell, we just came out with a report on our first 18 months of activity, and we found that 55 percent of the services we provided were transportation. That included -- 43 percent of our services for medical trips. Not necessarily the doctor, usually doctor but it could be a therapist, it could be for getting an X-ray, any different things like that. And the other rides were for anything from visiting a friend to going to the grocery store. The difference between us, and for instance, a city-sponsored one is that our volunteers would, if necessary, it is in curb -- the curb service, it's door-to-door and sometimes -- and they'll also help you in with the groceries if you happen to have a problem having your, you know, carrying heavy loads. So those -- that's our biggest one. And after that, social activities and arranging social activities is second. And the rest of them, reading to the blind, referrals, when volunteers can't do something, we help people find a paid person, anywhere from a, you know, a plumber to a dentist if they don't know. And we don't recommend them, but we do say that they are qualified. We do check out whether or not they're qualified.
NNAMDIGotta take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation on aging in place. But you can keep calling, 800-433-8850, or go into our website at kojoshow.org and making a contribution to the conversation right there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIIt's a discussion about aging in place with Virginia Hodgkinson, president, Mount Vernon at Home in Virginia. Miriam Kelty, lead coordinator, Bannockburn Neighbors Assisting Neighbors in Maryland. Andy Mollison is president of Palisades Village in Washington, D.C. And joining us by telephone from Orlando, Eleanor Ginzler is senior vice president for Livable Communities Strategies with AARP. Eleanor, we first talked on this show about aging in place three years ago, and at that time, the first aging in place organizations were cropping up in our region. How has the landscape changed since then?
GINZLERYeah. It is an absolutely changing landscape. And when we talked before, there were just a handful of communities as has been noted. There now are, in the District of Columbia, an incredible concentration of them. Across the United States, our Public Policy Institute has identified over 50 villages, and honestly, that number grows daily because there are hundreds more in communities across the United States forming at various stages. So this piece of research that the AARP Public Policy Institute did back in early spring is already an outdated number. It's more than 50 now that are up and operating. I think that growth pattern is only gonna continue because of all of the assets that have been discussed already this morning.
NNAMDIAndy, Miriam, Virginia, all three of you are part of a new organization that's trying to bring together the different non-profits working in our region. It's called Washington area villages. Miriam, can you tell us about that?
KELTYYes. We met some months ago, compared notes on the progress and purposes of our villages and agreed that a federation of Washington area villages would be -- or metro area villages, would serve all of us. We can share our experiences. We can reap some economic benefits from combining our resources and generally agreed that this would be a good move.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here is Robin. Robin is in a parking lot off the Beltway. Robin, you're on the air. Go ahead please.
ROBINActually, I'm on the Beltway, which is a parking lot...
NNAMDIOh, I see. (laugh)
KELTY...if you know what I mean.
NNAMDIThank you for the correction.
ROBINActually, I'm aging in place 'cause we're all aging, but I'm not retired yet. I'm 63. But what the story I wanted to share is that we bought our house in our early 40s. We had two young children. We kinda joked that one day when we're old we'll stay in this house because it's all on one floor, just a little rambler in the north, Four Corners in Silver Spring. But I think it's – this neighborhood is so walkable and so livable that I celebrate every day the opportunity to stay healthy, which I hope will help me stay in my home as I get older and older because I can walk to shopping at Northwest Branch Park, Starbucks, restaurant. You know, if you have a walkable community, you stay healthier and then perhaps it's more livable as you age.
NNAMDISo you're talking about aging in place in Silver Spring, not on the Beltway.
ROBIN(unintelligible) just right.
NNAMDIThank you very much.
NNAMDIHow important is that to you, Andy Mollison, being able to age in place? And we know Palisades is a fairly walkable community also.
MOLLISONWell, it's my first choice. And, you know, you say it's walkable, but people do need rides to get around. It's the way America was laid out. The Palisades stretches along the Potomac River between Georgetown and the Maryland Stateline. And the reason there is that whole street of houses there is that at one time, there was a trolley line there running from Georgetown up to Glen Echo Park. The trolley line is gone, but the houses are still there. And, you know, this – but we have completely different circumstances from Virginia. Our area is 2 miles, more or less, 2 miles long and a few blocks wide. Hers is huge. We have people without members like Bannockburn has. You've got us. We have this -- a model with a part-time executive director to help coordinate our volunteers. Everybody can do their own. It's not like starting a Boy Scout troop where you get a guide (laugh) and it says, these are the 42 steps (laugh) to starting a troop.
MOLLISONBut we each get to invent our own organization from scratch.
NNAMDIBut nevertheless, when we talk about Washington area villages, Virginia Hodgkinson, what are some of the ways that in spite of what Andy just said that you could learn from organizations that have been in place, so to speak, before yours?
HODGKINSONWell, there are several things that we can learn and share and experiment with each other. First of all, how to found a village...
HODGKINSON...which takes a lot of planning, knowing your own specific area and region and to -- for us because we decided that we needed a certain amount of money before we went into operation and that we would need an executive director before we opened, which is what we did. The second thing we can learn from one another is how to fundraise to support our villages. For most of us who have members, how to increase our membership because there are challenges with recruiting members who say, we're not ready yet. (laugh) And the concept that we should be ready for something is something that villages share, village leaders share with one another all the time because what we want is a very active, multi-generational community with community members. So the idea that members need to wait to join can be challenging.
NNAMDIRobin, thank you very much for your call. Elinor, give us a bit of background. You mentioned Beacon Hill. It's my understanding that the whole idea started up in Boston...
NNAMDI...in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.
GINZLERIt is true. Beacon Hill gets credit for being the first neighborhood to make this decision to do something about their desire to stay where they are as they get older. That was all the way back in 2001. So on one hand, it feels like a long time. On another hand, for a movement that's getting so much traction, think about it. Less than 10 years ago, we really didn't even have this happening. Though I think you could actually argue to some degree, this is the old town mentality, come back again across whatever geographic setting. You've got city neighborhoods doing it. You've got suburban neighborhoods doing it. I was actually at a conference last year that the Beacon Hill folks put on for villages all across the United States. There are rural places.
GINZLERLincoln, Nebraska has got a village underway. So it actually can be done anywhere and it is this whole notion of we as a town, as your guests are identifying in the studio. It is not just about the older residents of that neighborhood, it is the entire neighborhood and it is this notion of neighbor helping neighbor. So Beacon Hill gets credit for starting it. They actually have a wonderful resource available to villages no matter where they are, a web based organization called the Village to Village Network, where that same kind of sharing that's being talked about can take place virtually. So no matter where you're living, if you wanna connect with other village members in other places, you can use that Village to Village Network.
NNAMDIHere's Jeff in Columbia, Md. Jeff, your turn.
JEFFHi. Thanks for taking my call.
JEFFI just wanted to say that I think that there was a sort of a myth that popped up during the middle of the last century about the nuclear family.
JEFFAnd I think that that was never really sustainable. I think that what we need is multi-generational families or communities that we have old people supporting young people and young people supporting old people. I just want to share a story where we had a relative who is near the end of his life, and I took my young daughter to visit him in the hospital and she was only three or four years old. I was a little concerned that she was acting up and making too much noise, but when I looked at the way he reacted to her rambunctiousness and all that kind of stuff, I think that was the best possible medicine that we could have given that relative at that time in his life. That's my only comment.
NNAMDIThank you very much for that call and for sharing that story with us, Jeff. However, there can be problems. This -- an e-mail from Tom in Takoma Park. “My property assessment this year jumped by $100,000 or 33 percent despite an obvious downturn in real estate values for the past three years and the salary and benefits freeze at my job. How can seniors or unemployed people age in place when we're under assault from escalating property taxes?" Any advice for Tom, Elinor Ginzler?
GINZLERWell, you know, that is an absolutely real factor, especially in this current economic downturn. Property assessments regularly go up. When it happens in an economic downturn, it just is a double whammy. Actually, very individually, an individual can actually protest their assessment if they wish. It takes time. It takes energy. You're dealing with the bureaucracy. But if you really feel that it's not fair, that the values around you don't match what they're assessing your value to be, I absolutely would encourage them to take that step and be an empowered homeowner and pursue that. There are also programs out there. People who don't have a lot of resources sometimes don't even know that there are benefits available to them. And AARP actually has a wonderful, simple web-based system called Benefits QuickLINK. If you go to the aarp.org website, you can get to that. You -- if you know where the person lives, it can be you or a family member, you log in very little information about that individual and you get back all of the resources at the federal, state and local level that are available to that individual based on their financial circumstances.
NNAMDIHere's Mike in Alexandria, Va. Hi, Mike.
MIKEHello. How are you?
NNAMDII'm well. Go right ahead, Mike. You're on the air.
MIKEOkay. Well, I guess what I'd like to talk about -- I belong to Mount Vernon at Home, and have both taken advantage of one of the services where we had problems with path lights leading to our house when they weren't working. And we called and they sent over a volunteer who diagnosed the problem for us, told us what was needed. And then we got a vetted electrician that had done good work at reasonable prices for people before and got the whole job done. And otherwise, we would have asked maybe one or two neighbors to find out what's going on, but by having a service when anybody in Mount Vernon at Home has a good contractor who's done a good job, they get checked out. And so we know that we're getting the kind of service that is in effect what we would have to do on our own checking out the internet or just asking a few people.
NNAMDII got to ask you, Virginia Hodgkinson, if the service that Mount Vernon at Home in Virginia offers -- includes vetted contractors. I suspect you get a deluge of requests from people who are not aging in place but are simply homeowners.
HODGKINSONWell, I don't know about that. But if you're a member, we say One Call. And whether it's for a volunteer, or whether you need a contractor...
NNAMDIEvery homeowner needs a contractor.
HODGKINSONYeah, that's right. A lot of our local associations do try to provide lists of repair people, but we've gone into the vetting very, very seriously. And this idea of the One Call is what helps us live safely and feel that when we need it, there's care for us out there.
NNAMDIThe idea of the One Call is that a member makes one call regardless of the type of problem that that member has...
HODGKINSONThat's right. Right.
NNAMDI...and from there on, the organization takes it up.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Mike. You too can call us at 800-433-8850. We're discussing aging in place. Andy, talk a little bit about how aging in place organizations can affect the fabric of a community, because there's a very strong volunteer component. You mentioned your youngest volunteer is 4 years old. How have your organizations either changed or brought together different parts of the community?
MOLLISONWell, let's take the established places, the organizations, the parts of the fabric of the community that existed before we did. I own a senior services. It can help us if somebody needs social help. We can refer them to there and actually try to give them a ride there if they need a ride because they have social workers there who can discuss with people the choices, various ways of recovering, for instance, from surgery at home. They can get some objective advice. Another thing is the schools. We -- the schools in our area are very happy to have intergenerational programs. And the kids are really -- you know, when the kids show up at the yard of somebody who can't keep up their yard anymore, just once in the spring and once in the fall, and does -- and do a complete clean-up, and somebody having like 10 middle-school students can do more in two hours than the homeowner would be able to do in maybe two weeks, because they could only maybe work 40 minutes at a time. They get a little tired. They go back inside. This is just a marvelous example.
MOLLISONWe have a table, in good weather, at the Farmer's Market in the Palisades. And people come up to our table and they talk to us about what's going on and sometimes will give us a clue is to somebody that we might try to contact who might be interested in joining. We have a very interesting thing because we're dealing with Americans. We're trying to promote our organization to future members, but we can't mention old, age, (laugh) death, injury, because Americans are optimists. We are still in a society that disses the old and uses young as a compliment. They'll say to me, oh, my, you look young. And I -- it's actually a little annoying. (laugh) I shouldn't. I'm 71 years old. I should look 71. But I know people mean well. This isn't really annoying, but it's just peculiar about the way we try to pretend that we're gonna live forever. Well, what happens is gradually, people figure out, no, we aren't gonna live forever, but what we're gonna do is to live high quality while we're living. And that's what the Villages are helping out with.
NNAMDIAndy, you look 71.
NNAMDIMiriam Kelty, tell us a little bit about how Bannockburn Neighbors Assisting Neighbors in Maryland affects the fabric of your community?
KELTYWell, in addition to helping individuals who may need permanent or temporary assistance, we also have tried to promote some things that we think will improve the entire community. So, for example, we had a fire inspection program, Bannockburn Neighbors Assisting Neighbors work with the fire department and instituted a program whereby all homes that were willing to be inspected were inspected. Smoke detectors were checked and replaced if need be. Much to our surprise, there were a lot of people who should know better who had dead batteries in their smoke detectors. And so this was very much appreciated by the community.
KELTYWe also had a meeting of -- with the Montgomery County Policy on home safety issues for our community. We have a system of block coordinators. Each block in our neighbors assisting neighbors organization has a block coordinator who, in addition to being a contact, sort of, has eyes on the block as well as on the larger community. And block coordinators have distributed the file of life, which is a packet that allows people or that invites people to include contact information, medication information, and other vital information about them and keep it in an easily findable place, so if there's an emergency, they have it.
KELTYWe also have had -- or have ongoing a wise elder project whereby people who were 80 and older are matched with high school students who, for senior learning service credit from Walt Whitman High School, interview the people, do kind of an oral history over a period of time. We've gone through one group who worked for about five months with their -- the elders that they were matched with. And last spring, we presented a report from the high school students and the seniors to the community and to the school and the Montgomery County school officials that was very successful. A number of the seniors really enjoyed the relationships they formed with the high school students and the other way around. And we're having a second group starting up this coming Sunday.
NNAMDIHow aging in place organizations can affect the fabric of a community. We're gonna take a short break. When we come back, we will continue this conversation on aging in place. I'm taking your calls. If you have already called, stay on the line. We'll do our best to get to your calls. If the lines are busy, go to our website, kojoshow.org, or send us an email to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWe're discussing aging in place with Virginia Hodgkinson, president of Mount Vernon at Home in Virginia, Andy Mollison, president of Palisades Village in Washington, D.C., Miriam Kelty is lead coordinator with Bannockburn Neighbors Assisting Neighbors in Maryland, and Elinor Ginzler, senior vice president for Livable Communities Strategies with AARP. Elinor Ginzler, how old is too old to age in place? We got an email from Fidelita who talks about her neighbors. "They are 90 and 88 years old, have no way of contacting someone if they fall and cannot reach the phone, won't move in with their children, frequently scammed by home report -- repair crews and seem to be having a lot of problems with illnesses." Elinor Ginzler, either, A, how old is too old to age in place or how desperately those two individuals need a village?
GINZLERWell, it does sound like those people do need a resource system, and it sounds like the villages that Andy and Miriam and Virginia are representing absolutely could help that person. Sometimes it's about age and most often, it's about -- you know, we're talking about how old is too old and, you know, the reality is nobody thinks of themselves as old as we've already acknowledged. If you talk to somebody 70, they'll say, I'm not an old, an 80-year old is old. If you talk to somebody who's 80, they'll say, I'm not an old. 90-year old is old. It really is about making sure that people can stay safe, and I -- we have mentioned that before. Sounds like this woman is not safe. She's not safe physically right now.
GINZLERThere are things that can be done about that. There are devices that can be purchased that will help her. Literally wearing that button around her neck, she can push if she falls and can't get up, and it does alert sort of a whole emergency response system if necessary. If she is, in fact, having people knock on her door and convince her to do work she -- that doesn't need to be done, that kind of a scam, a support system would be great. And if she's able to say, you know what, I'm gonna have to ask my friend about this first, and make a call to one of those village members who would be that advocate for them, could make a world of difference to her. It could be that she needs so much assistance, that that setting isn't gonna work for her. But we don't even know that yet. She clearly needs something to help her out, and there are probably villages who could do that.
NNAMDIAlong that line, Andy, I'm wondering if your organization has had to overcome any fears that people might have about opening their homes to outsiders, particularly if they are afraid of being told they're not capable of staying in their own homes. How do you deal with those fears?
MOLLISONWe support people in their choices. We have helped some people who, for one reason or another, did not wanna stay in a particular building, the house, but wanted to stay in the neighborhood. And we've helped them to find other arrangements that they could do. I'm not trying to say that this is the only way to do it, is to be at home. There are times when -- there are institutions, societies that are very helpful. And we should use them. And we work with those groups. But I think we gotta be careful about being doctor in there either way. You know, old people don't just gradually disintegrate. What happens is once in a while you have an episode where you need a little extra help. It happens to a lot of people. You slip off a stool and break a wrist, maybe you're gonna need help for three or four weeks. But your wrist is gonna get better, and then you can be the one who helps somebody else. It's that sort of a swap-off. And things do happen. Balance, for example. We have a yoga class, and I think yoga is a bunch of idiotic stuff, but the people who are into it really think yoga is great, you know. And among other things, I have one of the people who does it tells me that her sense of balance is much better.
NNAMDIIt does help with balance.
MOLLISONAnd so that could be very, very -- you know, everybody finds their own way.
NNAMDIHere's John in Takoma Park, Md. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOHNThanks. Great show, Kojo. Really appreciate it. I'm an architect, and I built a house, my wife and myself, when we -- around the time we aged 50 to live in for the next 50 years. And I wrote a book for AARP a couple of years ago that's no longer in print, but you can get it free on the Internet called "The Do-Able Renewable Home" about low-cost and no-cost modifications people can make to their homes, that you can get on universaldesign.com. So I will...
NNAMDIThank you very much for sharing that with us, John. Here is Janean in Washington, D.C. Janean, hi. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JANEANHi, Kojo. I want to thank you very much for having this program. I had called your -- one of your producers a couple of months ago and suggested this because of what's going on…
NNAMDIUh-oh, you've let our secret out. We like to give people the impression that we think all of this stuff up ourselves. But go ahead, please. (laugh)
JANEAN(laugh) Well, I'm the vice president of Northwest Neighbors Village, which is in Chevy Chase, and it's just moving into AU Park where WAMU is located, and I'd like to invite everybody to our grand opening at Iona on the 13 of November. But I'd like to talk -- some people raised concerns about some of the -- how you can actually afford to stay in your home. And some of the ways are -- we have informed our people about -- in D.C., for example, if you have a family income of under $100,000, you can defer half of your property taxes until you sell the home or die or whatever, which will cut your property taxes down pretty substantially because I know mine ran around $4,500 a year. And, you know, cutting that in half does save you some money. Additionally, we're -- with some of our professional providers, we were able to negotiate discounts for our members. For example, some of the in-home health care services. Companies that we are dealing with that we have cleared and approved will provide a discount to our members. And we have an elder lawyer who will do something like that as well.
JANEANAnd so I think there are a number of ways if you look around. You can provide, you know, some discounts and help people as well. We also have one of our volunteers as a contractor. And so if somebody wants to do some additions, he will go over and help them negotiate the contract to make sure that they don't get ripped off. And speaking of getting ripped off, we are going to have a seminar with the D.C. Police coming up in the next few weeks for seniors on general safety issues, including how to avoid get, you know, telephone scams and things like that. So this is one of the areas that our people are very happy about. We've done a number of seminars, one on long-term health care, another on legal issues for seniors. So there are so many ways that the villages -- of course, we have worked back and forth with Andy and with the other villages in this area, sharing experiences and, you know, lessons learned and so forth like that. And that's been a wonderful resource. Hi, Andy.
MOLLISONHow are you doing?
NNAMDIJanean, thank you very much for your call. Elinor, is aging in place mostly an option for people who can afford it, for people who are affluent? It seems that to start an organization like this, you need people with -- at least some people with backgrounds in the law, maybe in finance.
GINZLERYou know, I think that the thing that has so made village movement, it is that, to me, it is the essence of the grassroots movement. It's a group of people. It's the neighbors that come together and decide, this is what we want. It's sort of the backbone of America. You can -- when you have a lot of resources and then it's gonna be a certain style of village. But I think all the villages that we've talked to have absolutely recognized the enormous opportunity that this provides for volunteer contributions, and most of the villages are sometimes surprised at how much their needs are being met through volunteer networks. So I don't know that we should say this is only for folks who have money. In some very more sophisticated villages like the Beacon Hill Village, they are actually looking at ways that they could look at the issue of Medicaid funding and is there some way to use that as a opportunity for folks. But that's a level of sophistication that I don't even think we need to worry about right now. If people want to do this, there's no question they can organize themselves, find out who's in their neighborhood that can help with what and who knows whom, and that network gets created.
NNAMDIThank you. Here's Louis in Silver Spring, Md. Louis, your turn. Go ahead, please.
LOUISHi. Thanks, Kojo. I think this is a great show. I wanna point out that it doesn't always mean that you -- to age in place that you stay in the home where you raised your children or you did your working years. Some people may move. Someone may move from New York to Palisades to begin aging near their children or grandchildren, or someone may move someone -- somewhere else. But the real point, I think, of aging in place is that people don't wanna be forced to move in a health crisis. They don't want that illness that's kind of expectable to end the life that they've chosen. And I think the villages are a great system for supporting people, but what we really need to do is not go under and develop a better system to use resources very well when push comes to shove, when people really need stuff, when they need real help in their home. We need to have the medical system and the support system very coordinated, very cooperative in order to really help people when they need it the most.
NNAMDIThank you very much for making an excellent point, Louis. On to Carol in Bethesda, Md. Carol, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CAROLHi. I agree that people don't need to age in the homes where they've raised their children. In fact, that's not the best use of our housing stock. I would think it make -- would make sense to promote different kinds of housing within a neighborhood. So when you're done with your four-bedroom house, you can move into a townhouse or an apartment or a condo and turn those larger homes over to young growing family who need those homes, and that would mean that, you know, that could reduce sprawl, that could mean that the schools of the neighborhood are better used. You don't have to build more schools further out. I just think it make sense to have the best use of the housing stock in mind also when we're thinking about this.
NNAMDISo you're saying that that people should be able to stay in their neighborhoods, if not necessarily in the same home or in the neighborhood...
NNAMDI...of their choice?
CAROLRight. So we should be promoting different kinds of housing within neighborhoods.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We got an e-mail or a call from Martine in Silver Spring who says, "Some of us in Silver Spring are starting a village."
NNAMDI"What mistakes would the panelists recommend that we avoid?" First you, Virginia Hodgkinson.
HODGKINSONWell, I would say the first mistake you could make is not to plan adequately. That it's very important that you know the scale of your village, that you know how you're gonna carry out the cost of developing membership and developing your core volunteers. That is the most important thing you can do. And taking an extra six months is...
HODGKINSON...very valuable for the future.
NNAMDIThank you very much. I think we have time for one more call. This will go to Buckley (sp?) in Reston, Va. Buckley, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BUCKLEYHi. I teach retirement and eldercare issues at Nova in Allendale on the community college. And I find that one of the things the students are really surprised to -- that they haven't thought about was in thinking about health care services, teaching nurses, home health aides from the medical side and then the living side. Is there -- are there grad bars? Is it accessible as, you know, wherever they decide to age, whether it be CCRC, a village, in their own home, that they don't think about the geriatric care managers as being a stand-in for the adult children or perhaps even just hiring somebody who can be sort of a savvy companion for them. They put those two other pieces in place. But if your family members either don't live nearby or perhaps becomes a particularly burdened with everything that they have going on in addition to assisting you, that there are professionals that you can hire to fill in that middle piece and make everything work.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We're just about out of time. Elinor Ginzler, thank you very much for joining us.
NNAMDIElinor Ginzler, senior vice president for Livable Communities Strategies with AARP. Virginia Hodgkinson, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIVirginia is president of Mount Vernon at Home in Virginia. Andy Mollison, good to have you here.
NNAMDIAndy Mollison is president of Palisades Village in Washington, D.C. Miriam Kelty, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIMiriam Kelty is lead coordinator of Bannockburn Neighbors Assisting Neighbors in Maryland. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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