By The Compassionate Caregiver
What if we all could have the opportunity to live the last years of our lives in peace, comfort and tranquility, and to die surrounded by loved ones in a safe and familiar place?
Soon there will be more seniors on the planet than there ever have ever been in history. Care for the elderly is unprecedented in scope and volume. Many of us will live past the age of 85, more than half of whom will have some form of dementia. Elders with homes can offer accommodations to people from younger generations, thereby creating situations that effectively expand eldercare. We can empower our communities by formalizing such arrangements.
I live in the Village with a 98-year-old man, a Medicaid recipient and local resident for decades. Taking care of my father taught me that every elder needs an advocate and supporter; doing this for a non-relative has been a revelation. I have created a structure for care and companionship for my roommate. He has given me a place to stay.
George Capsis wrote about senior-share apartments in a recent issue of WestView News. The active caregiving community connected to the newspaper is evidence that concerns about this topic are part of the consciousness of those who live in the neighborhood.
There are no nursing homes, assisted-living facilities or hospitals in the immediate vicinity. There are only two assisted living facilities in New York County that accept Medicaid. One has a months-long waitlist and the other has only 80 beds. Longtime Village residents have been driven away by new residents who pay $3,000-5,000 per month for studio and one-bedroom apartments. This cannot go on forever. Village dwellers of varying ages—childless couples or those in single-occupancy apartments for whom rents have become unaffordable— are expressing interest in assisting local elderly residents, who need part-time companions or caregivers, in exchange for reduced or free rent.
Intergenerational programs in Cleveland, Ohio, the Netherlands, Lyons, France, and Barcelona, Spain provide college students with free or reduced-rent housing in exchange for caring for elders. The program that began in Barcelona in the late 1990s has been replicated in more than twenty cities throughout Spain. These communities are proof that we can create win-win solutions via senior shares, while saving taxpayer and private funds and providing a model for those of all ages.
A simple law allowing capable people of various ages to live with and assist needy elderly residents will legitimize this arrangement in our Village neighborhood—improving quality of life, and preserving community and culture.
Perhaps brownstone and tenement buildings could house people ages 75-100 years old on the ground floor, ages 50-75 on the second floor, ages 30-50 another floor up, and 20-somethings on the top floor. Residents would check in on each other regularly to enable a visible and vibrant multi-age community. The younger generations would benefit from the wisdom and experience of the elders; the elders would benefit from the physical abilities of the younger residents, a sustainable model that will improve and develop over time.
If you or someone you know is interested in a senior share—either a senior who has a room to spare and welcomes a part-time caregiver, or someone willing to provide care and companionship to a Village senior in need in exchange for accommodation or reduced rent—please let WestView News know via telephone (212) 924-5718, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org