There have been numerous news articles discussing how different states are proposing alternatives to nursing homes. The number of Americans 65 and older is expected to more than double to 89 million by 2050. The oldest of 79 million Baby Boomers turn 65 next year, a turning point that will begin to put pressure on social services, retirement homes and assisted-living facilities. The percentage of people 65 and older is projected to climb from 13% today to 19% by 2050, while the share of adults age 20 to 64 is expected to drop from 60% to 55%, the Census Bureau says. Everyone agrees that we must do something to keep its exploding elderly population out of nursing homes for as long as possible to curtail the crushing costs of extended institutional care.
USA Today’s article referenced grass roots "Villages" sprouting up in neighborhoods across the country to help people age in their own homes. More than 50 villages in a neighbor-helping-neighbor system have emerged. They are run by volunteers and funded by grants and membership fees to provide services from transportation and grocery delivery to home repairs and dog walking.
How villages operate:
•Residents pay a membership fee that varies from $25 to $600 or more a year, depending on the types of services members want. Some villages have paid staff members; others are run completely by volunteers.
•Most villages are opening in more upscale neighborhoods in cities and suburbs, but they all provide discount dues for lower-income elderly.
Capitol Hill Village, which began operating three years ago and is the oldest of six such villages in the nation’s capital send folks to clean gardens, install railings, fix windows, bring groceries and run other errands.
Beacon Hill Village in Boston was the first in the movement, created by residents in 2001. It charges annual dues and delivers paid and volunteer help. The village movement is "consumer-driven and consumer-run," says Judith Willett, Beacon Hill’s executive director. Beacon Hill partnered with NCB Capital Impact, a non-profit community development group, to launch the national Village-to-Village Network to help other areas. It is backed by funders such as the MetLife Foundation.
The Minnesota Star-Tribune had an article about Minnesota’s Living at Home Network which includes 43 local programs and thousands of volunteers to assist the elderly in simple household tasks. The Living at Home Network, once called the Block Nurse Program and the Elderberry Institute, dates to 1981. Recently renamed, the loosely organized network just changed its budgeting and management to reaffirm its original mission, which allows localities to develop unique programs that all push the common goal of keeping the elderly out of nursing homes.
The network kept 1,222 elderly Minnesotans out of nursing homes in 2008-09. Keeping people out of nursing homes also costs less. Caring for those same clients in nursing
homes would have cost an additional $20 million from taxpayers. Multiply that by the thousands of other frail, elderly Minnesotans and the sums grow large.
Tax dollars spent on seniors’ long-term care are projected to grow from roughly $1 billion in 2010 to $5 billion in 2035. In fiscal 2010, Minnesota spent $720 million on nursing home care for the elderly, compared with $333 million on non-institutional care. By 2035, the state hopes to reverse the ratio, spending $3.5 billion on non-institutional care and $1.5 billion on nursing homes.
Living at home is almost always cheaper and more comfortable than living in an institutional setting, said Kristen Whittenbaugh. She directs Nokomis Healthy Seniors, which serves 502 senior citizens on an annual budget of $165,000.
By comparison, in 2009 the average cost of a private room in a Minnesota nursing home was $54,750 a year, according to MetLife insurance company. In the Twin Cities, the annual average was $62,780.