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Baby boomers: Three takes on the future

February 1, 2007
by Claudia Blumenstock
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Baby boomers are redefining their aging by the way in which they live their lives. Lifestyle, not life process, is their battle cry. Boomers expect to be cured of all illness and will not consider slowing down long enough to have any-thing interfere with their exuberant spirits. They demand stimulating and thought-provoking activities on a continuing basis, with recreation and lifelong learning opportunities thrown in for good measure.

And in today's long-term care environment, several lifestyle alternatives are emerging to meet these demands. One of the newest options is Beacon Hill Village, located in Boston's Beacon Hill area and adjacent neighborhoods. According to the Beacon Hill Village Web site, http://www.beaconhillvillage.org, the program gives people ages 50 and older who reside in that area the ability to “enjoy safer, healthier and more independent lives in their own homes—well connected to a familiar and attentive community.”

Beacon Hill Village was established as the result of several longtime residents having no desire to leave their treasured neighborhood and move to traditional retirement settings. As a result, they decided to “create a better alternative, a virtual retirement community, designed to make remaining at home a safe, comfortable and cost-effective solution.” Collaborative partnerships were developed with community providers, focusing on basic life enhancements such as concierge services, home health services, and social and cultural activities.

In October 2001, Judy Willett was hired as Beacon Hill Village's first executive director, and in February 2002, the Village was open for business. Residents now take advantage of services such as housecleaning, errands, home office adaptations, transportation, weekly shopping, and home-delivered meals. Volunteer programs are offered as opportunities for members to help each other, nurturing compassionate relationships within their “village” along the way. Frequent trips, travel opportunities, and educational seminars are regular social and cultural offerings in which villagers participate.

Relationships have been developed with a senior health practice and a home health agency to provide home-based assisted living, along with wellness activities. Reasonable membership fees are charged annually to each member or household. If residents of the neighborhood are of moderate means and wish to become members of Beacon Hill Village, reduced rates and credits are available to them and generously supported by neighbors and foundations.

A more traditional setting with nevertheless unique offerings is provided by Longview, an Ithacare community, located in Ithaca, New York. Founded in the early 1970s, Longview welcomes individuals regardless of income. The community relies on donors’ generous giving to the Ithacare Quality of Life Fund to support low-income residents. Constituents of all financial means experience a social model of living in collaboration with Ithaca College.

Longview's basic monthly fees include an affordable rent and meal service. Extra services can be purchased a la carte and range from housekeeping to social and cultural activities. The flexibility of enhanced services is expressed by Executive Director Mark Macera: “If you want more, you get more, and if you want less, you pay less.”

According to The Longview Web site (http://www.ithaca.edu/longview), “An exciting programmatic partnership with Ithaca College creates a blended, intergenerational lifestyle where residents, students, and faculty benefit from shared resources and experiences, enhancing the quality of life for everyone involved.” Longview believes that its residents still wish to engage in lifelong learning while sharing their life experiences with others.

Macera and Professor John Krout, director of Ithaca College's Gerontology Institute, spearhead an organic relationship between the two endeavors. Each organization provides one dedicated staff member to dovetail the relationship by coordinating joint activities on both the Longview and Ithaca College campuses.

There are no limits to the programmatic possibilities. Residents may audit courses or take classes for credit. Meanwhile, the wealth of knowledge that literally resides at Longview provides a tremendous resource for Ithaca College students. Residents are asked to speak on topics or issues in which they have specialized or of which they have a substantial understanding. Frequenting the Longview campus to meet course requirements or have work study experiences are students from Physical Therapy and Audiology, Therapeutic Recreation, Administration of Health Services and Public Policy, and Music programs. Students from the School of Business and the Department of Accounting assist residents with their tax returns, and history professors host programs address-ing one of the world wars or focusing on trips residents have taken abroad.

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