While many Baby Boomers are enjoying retirement by traveling the globe, they remain adamant that, when it’s time to settle down, they want to do it at home. A recent AARP study finds that 89% of Americans aged 50+ wish to remain in their homes indefinitely. Over the past 15 years, 200 organizations across the country have opened their doors and made a commitment to helping these older adults do just that. Part of a movement known as “aging in place,” these volunteer-based organizations provide seniors with the support they need to remain safely at home as they age.
“As the population continues to live longer and become frailer, older adults remain committed to living independently,” says Barb Achenbaum, executive director at Staying Put in New Canaan, a member-based nonprofit organization. “Our task is to make sure that they have the resources they need to do it safely.”
When Staying Put was founded a decade ago, the average age of members was 75. Today the average age is 84 and 20% are 90 or older. “As our members age, there is increasing need for transportation, home safety, troubleshooting of medical and emotional needs, and guidance in injury prevention.” Members, who must be residents of New Canaan, pay modest annual dues and scholarship support is available to those with financial limitations. Last year, with the help of 200 volunteers, Staying Put provided 5000 direct services to its 300 members, including 4000 rides to medical appointments and social engagements – plus 1000 other services, such as handyman help, tech support, errands, and friendly calls or visits. The staff also provides health and safety consultations and keeps a list of vetted vendors who give senior discounts.
“Our work would not be possible without our volunteers, most of whom are empty nesters or recent retirees,” says Achenbaum. The latter group is likely to join in the future. “Volunteering at Staying Put is one of the most gratifying things we do, and I know someone will be there for me when I need them,” says volunteer Judy Bentley, who also serves as president of the board of directors.
While members benefit from the social interaction during a ride, the return on investment for volunteers is equally clear. “While the member I drove to the hairdresser was very appreciative, I know that being with her made my day even more than I made hers,” explains volunteer driver George Brakeley.
A second key element of “aging in place” is making sure that seniors, many of whom are widows, avoid isolation and stay engaged in the community as they grow older. Staying Put members can choose from a variety of social and cultural activities that help maintain old friendships and build new ones. “Last year, we offered 80 events to our members,” says Achenbaum. These included picnics, coffees, potlucks, cocktail parties, visits to museums, theater outings, and educational programs. “We make sure to give our members opportunities to do some learning — but it’s just as important for them to get out and have some fun.”
Member and volunteer Pris Thomas sums up the value of these diverse offerings: “Staying Put is a trusted resource, a place to form lasting friendships, a fun social club, and a reliable safety net.”
Boomers need not worry. They will indeed find that there’s no place like home. For more info visit www.stayingputnc.org or call 203-966-7762.