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A New Model for Senior Living Takes Off

December 12, 2011

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - A small non-profit that helps seniors stay in their homes and stay active is aiming to catch the wave of retiring baby boomers. East Rock Village, serving residents of New Haven, Hamden and North Haven, won a $100,000 matching grant and raised the other $100,000 in just a few months.

Executive director Frances "Bitsie" Clark says the funds will stabilize the organization as it expands.

"We provide health and home services as well as cultural, recreational, fitness and wellness services to our constituents. Some of the services are volunteer, some are paid for by members and some are paid for by Medicare."

She says members pay an annual fee, with a sliding scale for lower-income seniors. One thing all get in return is referrals to vetted medical service providers.

Clark says they currently have 130 members and need 300 members to be self-sustaining, but adds it's a struggle recruiting people who don't think of themselves as seniors.

"You remember that the baby boomers' slogan was always 'don't trust anyone over 30.' It's very hard for you to think about the fact that you're gonna get older or that you are getting older."

She adds that many religious institutions offer similar services, but they're staffed by volunteers with perhaps a paid coordinator, while East Rock Village offers professional services that members can count on. She notes that the first wave of baby boomers turns 65 this year.

"There's gonna be so many people that are gonna need these services. We want to be sure there's room enough for everybody."

She says 65 similar "villages" exist around the United States, with 125 more in the planning stages.

More information is available at www.eastrockvillage.org.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT