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An 'Angie's List' for Finding Help to Age In Place

An innovative, new tool helps you locate services to stay in your home

By Liza Kaufman Hogan and SCAN Foundation

Editor's note: This article is part of Transforming Life as We Age, a year-long project on aging well, planning for the changes aging brings and shaping how society thinks about aging. 

Staying in your home as long as you can — as opposed to moving to a retirement community or into your nephew's house — sounds like a great idea. But what does it take to remain there?

Will you be able to afford it for the next 20 years? Will your home remain safe as you get older and are there ways to modify it? What if you can't climb stairs? Who can help with the lawn? How will you get to the grocery store, your doctor's appointments and your book club? What if you get bored or lonely?

Working through the details of aging in place can be overwhelming — and if you're not contemplating them now, your parents might be.

(MORE: Special Report: Transforming Life as We Age)

To help, the National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC) has just published a comprehensive guide, Act III: Your Plan for Aging in Place. It covers decisions around housing, finances, health, transportation and social engagement, and is intended to help people determine how best to maintain their independence as they age.

Getting the Whole Picture

“We feel that we've got to take a look at the whole big picture of what a senior's living situation is," says Marty Bell, NAIPC's executive director. "In the past, this has been done in pieces, and we wanted to put together a tool to take a comprehensive look at all needs and how they affect each other."

The personalized guide takes about an hour to complete, according to NAIPC. It asks a series of questions in six areas from housing to transportation to local entertainment opportunities. A sample question from the health section: "Do you have a chronic condition that needs daily attention?" At the end of each section, the reader is asked to identify the needs identified throughout the questionnaire.

(MORE: 3 Innovative Ways to Age in Place)

At the end, the person seeking help aging in place is asked to summarize needs — and here's where things get interesting. If you find areas you'll need help with (and with 59 questions, you probably will), you are then invited to fill out a confidential online form. The form will be sent to NAIPC, which will assign it to a counselor — ideally a member of a NAIPC chapter living near you. Then, you'll be contacted by phone by a counselor who can find the necessary services for continuing independent living.


A Network of Services

Asked how the service differs from the Area Agencies on Aging, which also connects older Americans with local services, Bell says his group puts people in touch with professional individuals and small businesses vetted by NAIPC to provide services such as financial counseling, home remodeling or in-home health care. The companies charge fees for their services, but accessing the network is free — sort of like an Angie's List for aging-in-place services.

Alissa Boroff, chair of NAIPC's Minneapolis/St. Paul Chapter and director of Access Solutions, a universal-design consulting firm, says she hopes families will use the guide as a conversation starter and sit down with aging parents to assess their needs.

"We find it is a real eye opener," Boroff said in announcing the program. "Historically, seniors do not take action until they have a problem. This permits them to have prepared solutions for such problems as downsizing their home, paying for a health care emergency or facing that they are no longer safe when driving.”

(MORE: Joan Lunden on Challenges, Guilt and Caregiving)

NAIPC is kicking off the program this week (National Aging in Place Week) with a series of local events through its 22 chapters. The schedule of events can be found here.

The Act III service is new and untested, but Bell says NAIPC is prepared to adapt it depending on the needs of those who use the guide. Next Avenue will check back in in a few months to see how many people have accessed the service and how it's going.

Liza Kaufman Hogan is a freelance writer. Read More
By SCAN Foundation
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