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Baby Boomers Make Plans for Retirement

  • Priscilla Huff

The United States is well-known for its youth-obsessed culture, but in reality there is a huge generation of so-called baby boomers -- Americans born after World War Two. They number some 80 million people and they are beginning to retire and re-define how U.S. citizens grow old. What many want to do is to live at home, age-in-place, and that is prompting the development of innovative problems to help them. Priscilla Huff takes a look at one such program in Washington, D.C.

Mike and Judy Canning are now retired, after careers in government and raising a family. Mike Canning hopes he and his wife have many healthy years ahead of them. "You're of a certain age -- in my case, I'm 66," he tells us. "And with other people thinking about the same things, about your future or eventual demise -- one must. We love our house. We've been there many years. We don't want to move."

Some older Americans choose communities aimed solely at people aged 55 and up. They buy homes in complexes only for adults that provide lots of social activities. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that, within 20 years, one in five Americans will be aged 65 or older.

William Daroff is with United Jewish Communities. "More and more of us are having to deal with our retirement and that of our parents and our grandparents, so as a society we need to start dealing with these issues of so many people aging at the same time."

Traditionally, retirement communities and nursing homes have been the destination of senior citizens. But more and more older Americans, like the Cannings, want to grow old in familiar surroundings. "Yes, the focus is staying in our own homes, but we want to do that because we want to remain living in our own community that we live in where we have neighbors who have babies or school age children"

It is a trend called aging-in-place. But, the Cannings recognize, to remain in their home as long as possible, they are going to need some help. So, they have joined a group called the Capitol Hill Village.

It is a fee-based organization aimed primarily at senior citizens. Its executive director, Gail Kohn, organizes volunteers to help members, and if they need additional services, she manages a referral list of reliable contractors. "We have a vendor and that vendor is going to provide a service and then we arrange with the vendor to call our member," she explains.

Kohn coordinates volunteers and finds reliable plumbers, electricians and other repairmen for her senior citizen members. "By helping them do what needs to be done in order for them to live as comfortably as possible, so it could be as simple as getting involved to make the house work well."

Mike Canning says he does not need much help now, but he says he is already thinking how the Capitol Hill Village could help him in the years ahead. "That could mean something as simple as activities in my house that I'm getting too old for, such as cleaning the gutters or cutting the grass or doing the gardening."

Capitol Hill Village is just one model of innovative programs designed to achieve that goal, allowing senior citizens to remain in their homes and part of their communities.

William Daroff of United Jewish Communities says,"Our older Americans can be seen as a great resource. If you look back at how we dealt with folks who were aging 20, 30 years ago, it wasn't very creative, not very innovative. But today's 70 year old is more like yesterday's 50 year old. "

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that over the next 40 years, the number of people aged 65 and older will double, both in the United States and around the world.

That is nearly one billion people who will probably need a little extra help.

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