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Virtual Assisted Living

It is typical for many Asian families to have aging parents live in the same household as the children and grandchildren. However, in our American culture, aging anglo parents are more independent and try to avoid what they consider to be a “burden to their children.”

The majority of people in America would like to age in place in their own home rather than move to a retirement community.

In spite of this independence, adult children are frequently concerned about the safety and wellbeing of their parents living alone, particularly if they live some distance apart. At the same time, it is also important for elders to continue to have meaning and purpose and the personal contact with local people who care about them.

In a 2008 blog post I mentioned the Village movement that is sweeping America as one of several initiatives directed to solve these concerns. Since then, a new “village”  is in the process of being formed in Silicon Valley. The forming group now meets regularly in the Jewish Federation boardroom at 14855 Oka Road, Los Gatos, CA.

Today, I was listening to KKRN, which broadcasts Out of Bounds, a radio show created by Tish Pearlman, where she interviewed Dr. Allan S. Teel and heard another similar initiative with a different twist.

Dr. Teel, a practicing physician in the state of Maine, has created  Full Circle America, which is an initiative (geared particularly toward the 85-104 age group) about:

  • Doing whatever it takes to help older individuals stay in their own homes as long as they want.
  • Using and shaping existing technology to combat loneliness and isolation.
  • Reconfiguring existing community assets from schools, libraries, churches, town halls, community centers, and restaurants to accomplish this mission.
  • Blending peers, volunteers, and paid staff in targeted and affordable ways to accomplish the goals and aspirations of our elders.

Dr. Teel has also written a book entitled Alone and Invisible: How Grassroots Community Action and 21st Century Technologies Can Empower Elders to Stay in Their Homes and Lead Healthier, Happier Lives. I have not yet read the book, but from the radio interview is sounds like the concept is to use video cameras in elders home so adult children can monitor their parent’s status online or even from their cell phone; to utilize volunteers and minimal paid staff to respond to their parent’s immediate needs at about 20% of the cost of assisted living solutions; and to use peer-to-peer phone calls, personal visits and social networking to engage our elders and champion their capabilities and capacity to remain vital members of their communities. Sounds interesting.

As the ranks of retired baby boomers swell, there will need to be lots of alternatives to building more assisted care and skilled nursing facilities. Let me know if you if you hear of others like Dr. Bill Thomas’ Greenhouses.