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Villages Take Root Around Virginia

Want to age in your own home? Sometimes it takes a village.

Virginia State Page October 2010

Judith Rosen and Tom Foss examine rotting wood on a windowsill that requires repair. Rosen is a member of Mt. Vernon At Home. Foss is a volunteer who helps neighbors with handyman tasks. — Melissa Golden

When Judy Rosen and her neighbors moved into their brand-new homes in the wooded hills near Mount Vernon in the 1950s, they were happy to hop in their cars and drive. They battled developers who wanted to build shops nearby.

See also: Universal design can help people age in their homes.

When Judy Rosen and her neighbors moved into their brand-new homes in the wooded hills near Mount Vernon in the 1950s, they were happy to hop in their cars and drive. They battled developers who wanted to build shops nearby.

"Aha!" said Rosen, 85. "That's great until you can't drive anymore. We're paying for that now."

Like many older Virginians, Rosen is determined to stay in her home of 57 years. But suburbs such as Hollin Hills in Fairfax County are short on public transit. Fortunately, Rosen belongs to Mount Vernon At Home, a "village" that provides transportation and other services to help people age in place.

The village concept began with Beacon Hill Village in Boston in 2001 and has spread nationwide. The grassroots movement is catching hold in Virginia, where several villages have started or are in the planning stage. One of the pioneers is Mount Vernon At Home, a nonprofit launched last November. It has more than 125 members, about 60 volunteers and two employees. Volunteers staff the phones and respond to member requests.

"People are saying, 'Huh-uh, we're not doing what our parents did. We're not going to be institutionalized,' " said executive director Jeff Reed.

Finding alternatives to institutional care is not only popular but necessary. By 2030, one in five Virginians will be over 65. AARP research shows older people overwhelmingly want to age in their own homes. Virginia's Four-Year Plan for Aging Services issued last November said two factors are driving the transformation from facility-based care to aging in place: individual preference and a shortage of retirement communities or nursing homes.

Next: Most communities aren't conducive to aging in place. >>

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