Person of the Week: Caregivers Allow for Dignified Living Situations for Aging Parents

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Susan McWhinney-Morse, 76, helped start Beacon Hill Village, an organization in her Boston community where those in the neighborhood age 50 or older pay $110 to $640 a year to join a village. The membership price depends on the person's income and gets a member help with everything from shopping for groceries to participation in an exercise class.

"I often think that what gets older people down about living in their own homes are the little things," McWhinney-Morse said. "Like who's going to shovel your snow? Who's going to change the light bulb on top of my stairwell? Who's going to fix the leaky faucet?"

Today, the village movement is exploding with at least 48 other groups started across the nation and more than 600 in development.

McWhinney-Morse said the village has made for a much better relationship between her and her daughter. "I'd rather call them and ask them to come to dinner ... take them out to a movie than [ask] do you think you could just stop by and fix my faucet?"

Her daughter Madeline McNeely-Esposito said she was grateful for the village. McNeely-Esposito, who has a toddler son, said managing her work life with children and aging parents was complicated.

"I know that I have support and a resource in Beacon Hill Village if there is something I can't do or my brother can't do," she said.

Goyer said that it was important for people to look at all of the resources available to them and choose the best services for their relative.

She made additional suggestions:

Assisted living locator services

An elder-care house assessment, where recommendations are made on making the house safe and accessible

Family conferences especially if aging parents move in

Cohousing, which consists of intentional communities where people live in their own homes but share meals together and common spaces

Goyer said data showed that if people had choices in how they aged, then they aged more successfully. "Having the socialization, the interaction with other people [and] feeling an essence of purpose can really make a huge difference," she said.

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