By: Sanford R. Altman, Esq., retired

I am at an age where I am seriously considering retirement in the near future.

I love where I live and, frankly, don’t want to have to move out of my home as I get older. I have heard a little bit about “aging in place.” Can you tell me exactly how it works and if we can do it in this area?

This is a concern shared by many, not only this area but throughout the country. As an elder law attorney, I have spent many years helping seniors retain their assets for themselves and their families in the event they need long term care such as nursing homes. However, the overwhelming desire of my clients has always been to remain in their homes. With the government making it more difficult to become eligible for medicaid, grants being hard to come by and budgets tightening from the local all the way up to the federal level, it became apparent that this kind of help for seniors must spring from the community. In other words, we have to help ourselves.

In the town of Montgomery for example, the aging in place program took on what was later viewed to be a somewhat unique form. For those who worked on it, it was simply logical for this area and cost effective.

It was essentially developed in a three part process:

1. Researching aging in place programs in other locations throughout the country and picking the best parts from each;

2. Canvassing senior centers to find out what services seniors consider most vital for remaining in their homes. (Transportation was by far number one); and

3. Findings partners that would help the program supply the services to seniors quickly and at no cost.

While number three above may seem the most problematic, it actually proved to be the key to the success of what was to become the Town of Montgomery Seniors Independence Project. With the strong support of the Town Supervisor, the Project became an official Town program which then partnered with RSVP (the senior volunteer arm of the County’s Office for the Aging) and Jewish Family Service’s Faith In Action which had great depth and experience with volunteers aiding seniors. The Town and the existing volunteer organizations yielded a Project with instant credibility in the community as well as the experience to carry out its goal: pairing volunteers with seniors over 60, at no cost to the seniors, geared toward helping seniors stay in their homes instead of having to move on to institutional settings. This partnering of municipalities with existing volunteer organizations soon became a blueprint for other senior projects in the area and there are currently efforts by the Orange County Office for the Aging to actively encourage municipalities throughout the County to follow suit.

What does this mean to the seniors in this area? Most importantly, there is an ever growing number of grass roots organizations that will provide seniors with rides for doctors visits and shopping, help with chores around the house, and make friendly visits and regular phone calls for companionship and contact. There are also local, reliable, insured merchants and contractors who are now committed to giving the seniors discounts. Since this is obviously a community participation activity, there are many opportunities for you to be involved:

  1. First and foremost, as a senior in need of help from volunteers;
  2. As a volunteer. Even if you can only give one ride or make a few phone calls a month, every little bit is a big help. There is no upper age limit for volunteers. Some older volunteers even receive services as well as volunteer;
  3. As an organizer of an aging in place organization in your own locality. Look to partner with your Town or Village government and one of the existing volunteer organizations as they did in Montgomery so you will not have to “reinvent the wheel.”

Remember that a senior project started or supported now will be there when you need it to help you stay in your homes later.

For more information about aging in place organizations, you may call the Office for the Aging in your county or:

Town of Montgomery Seniors Independence Project – (845)457-4138
Town of Newburgh Friends of Seniors – (845)564-8936
Otisville/Mt. Hope Hometown Helpers – (845)386-1460 / (845)386-1460