Among the great challenges we all face as we age is where to live. We may be a bit too frail to stay in our suburban colonial, but are not nearly ready for assisted living, to say nothing of a nursing home. We could move to a traditional large retirement community such as a Leisure World, but that would mean moving to a gated community where we’d be surrounded by thousands of other seniors. No kids except for visitors. No real neighborhood beyond the clubhouse, the pool. and the shuffleboard court.
So how about this: Imagine sharing a residential home with about 10 others. The homes are located in urban or suburban neighborhoods. Each resident gets her own studio apartment with a private bath, and shares a communal den and dining room. The building is acccessible for both people with disabilities and the frail elderly, with grab bars, ramps, railings and elevators. While it is designed for those who can still live independently, it is fully staffed and you have access to a local community health center for both medical care and supportive services. The home is also set up for convalescent care, should you need it. And the cost for a typical resident: less than $2,000 per month, including meals.
The houses are private, and are not operated by the government. They can be started by non-profits such as service clubs, churches, or community groups.
What’s remarkable is that the idea of these homes is not new. Called Abbeyfield Houses, they have been operating in England since the 1950s and there are now more than 900 worldwide.
So where do I sign? Well, there are 27 in Canada, including the Parkdale House in Ottowa. But Beth Baker, who told me about Abbeyfield, says that as far as she knows, there are none in the U.S. Beth, author of the terrific senior housing book Old Age in New Age, would know.
It would be great if a local non-profit opened one. Imagine, for example, if it was linked to a senior village (a community group started by seniors to help one another) perhaps with a partnership with a local hospital or community health center. Imagine if the model became so well established that groups of friends could use the template to create small communities of their own as they aged.
We have similar models here. Small group assisted living homes and co-housing come to mind. But none quite fit the niche that Abeyfield does. If someone builds it, we will come.