Aging in Place
Senior Cohousing and the Basics of the Beacon Hill Model
When your house has long ceased to be a place you just live in and becomes a beloved home, the suggestions of those around you that you’re aging out of the ability to live there can sting. After all those years you spent paying off the mortgage and filling the home with decorations to your taste and happy memories, how can you just give all that up?
Not everyone feels that level of sentimental attachment to their house, but for those that do the pain of having to switch out their home for another senior living option is palpable. If there are others in your neighborhood facing the same difficult choice, you may have a better option.
How the Beacon Hill Model Started
Around 13 years ago, a group of neighbors living in the Beacon Hill area of Boston met up to discuss their desire to continue living in their homes as they aged rather than moving into assisted living in Boston. They didn’t want this desire to mean putting extra pressure on their children and other family members to take care of them. They knew what they wanted, but had no clear idea yet how they could achieve it.
From that conversation an organization was born based on affordably serving the unique needs they faced as seniors living in their homes. They each agreed to pay a certain amount into a membership fund, and the money would go towards many of the services they required. As a group, they could negotiate discounts for general medical care, home care, transportation, and any other services they found they commonly needed.
Their membership-based retirement village was based on finding a way to better address their own needs. Once they had figured it out, they quickly realized they’d touched on something other people want and could use, too. As a result, over 70 other retirement villages based on the Beacon Hill model now exist.
Starting Your Own Beacon Hill Retirement Village
The Beacon Hill Village provides resources and consulting to other senior communities interested in developing something similar. They can help, but communities should be aware that each aging-at-home retirement village will face distinct challenges. For example, the Beacon Hill area is full of stairs and has sidewalks that occasionally get icy.
On the other hand, the community was lucky that it had some members with business experience and connections. They were able to enlist the help of some Harvard Business School contacts for advice on how to start a nonprofit. The resources the Beacon Hill Village provides can help communities with less business savvy members get started.
They suggest that two of the first steps to tackle are:
1. Create a business plan.
2. Survey your community’s needs.
You need to have an idea of the types of services and level of care the people involved will need before you can create a clear plan that takes into account considerations like costs and fees.
The business side of things won’t necessarily be easy, but putting the work in to get going can pay off. The membership dues for Beacon Hill’s retirement village cover services like trips to the supermarket, transportation help from volunteers, and fitness classes. For services not covered by the dues, they enjoy discounts that range from 10-50% off.
For many seniors, a move to an assisted care or independent living community is the perfect choice for the extra levels of help received and the social activities they provide. For those who aren’t yet ready to leave behind their homes, but could still use some extra support in their aging, a membership-based retirement village model could be a great option.