Aging in Place in Suburbia: Big Ideas, Little Awareness
By Marty Bell, Executive Director
Both older adults in need of in-home services and those who provide the services were impressed by the overwhelming presentation of innovative ideas and products at the Aging in Place in Suburbia summit at Stony Brook University on October 6 and 7. And yet, at the same time, they were frustrated by the limited knowledge of and communication about the menu of varied supports for aging in place.
The event sponsored by the Stony Brook School of Social Welfare, the National Aging in Place Council, the New York State Office on Aging, AARP, the Nassau and Suffolk County Offices on Aging and the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island attracted 200 attendees and focused on in-home service delivery on Long Island as a model for non-urban areas all across the country. “We need to create communities people want to grow older in,” said Gregg Olsen, Acting Director of the NY Office on Aging in the opening session.
Long Island has about 100 bedroom communities most within towns and all within counties—and each has its own local government. There is no one hub. So how do you create an in-home services delivery system in such a set-up?
Panelists presented what conference organizer Jacqueline Mondros, Dean of Social Health and Vice President at Stony Brook, called “a tasting menu” of options—both local and from around the country-- in housing, transportation, health and wellness, personal finance and social engagement.
At the event’s conclusion, attendees voted on the priorities for improving aging in place on Long Island. There was unanimous or near unanimous demand for:
But numerous times throughout the two days, following presentations that drew oohs and aahs from the crowd, the question, “Why didn’t we know about this?” arose. Though we here at NAIPC publish a bi-weekly newsletter, hold regular Council of Chapter and Working Group meetings via phone, and organize conferences, our messaging is not reaching a large enough audience. It is also possible that the sheer number of organizations in the country focused on aging issues is creating a mass of confusion.
- More affordable housing and more housing options;
- More public transportation, more access to sharing economy private rides, more affordable costs for older adults;
- More access to financial information (perhaps via counseling) for those who do not have large enough assets to attract financial advisors;
- Better access to health solutions and a larger caregiving network;
- More community living options such as Villages and multifamily senior housing;
- A systematic, collaborative delivery system (or one stop shop) to facilitate aging in place.
So along with creating a one-stop shop for in-home services in communities, we need to develop and promote a more widely known information destination for all that is needed to age in place.