Interview with the Aging In Place Institute’s Laura Traynor

I recently spent some time chatting with Laura Traynor, the former director of The Center for Aging In Place.  She clued me in about the value that the center creates for people in and around Westchester, NY.   This spurrred a follow up interview with the Village to Village network or “The Village Movement” too.  That post is up next!

Interview with Laura Traynor:

What is your background?

For 15 years, I worked in health care marketing to drive adoption of new products and services through education and advocacy development. Early in my career, I promoted two healthy aging programs and always wanted to circle back to the 55+ market as I saw it as a huge business opportunity.   Ten years ago, I went back to school and got a master’s degree in social policy and aging, looking at how to leverage the skills and talents of the best educated, experienced generation of older adults in our nation’s history.  I’ve since worked to develop and build new programs and services targeting a new generation of older adults.

What is the The Center for Aging in Place? 

Four years ago, I began working with The Center for Aging in Place, a hub for the national “village”  movement in Westchester County. The Center works with 10 membership-based programs throughout Westchester County, NY that enable older adults to remain at home and in community by providing them with access to supportive services, a gateway for community-based services/resources and wellness/social activities.  More than 1000 residents of Westchester County belong to these programs and the movement is growing across the country.

Why did you get involved in the Center for Aging in Place? 

Most people want to remain at home and in their communities as they grow older. It’s where they have friends, familiar places and networks of people they depend on like doctors and financial advisors. Most communities, however, are not designed to support people as they age – they’re mostly youth-centric. I think there’s a pressing need to help people age in place and that’s why I got involved.  It’s what consumers want and from a system’s perspective, makes total economic sense. Membership in aging in place programs is very affordable.  In Westchester, the membership fees range from $50 to $400 per year.  Compare that to our traditional retirement offerings and you can see why this model is so important for a rapidly aging society.  Ten thousand baby boomers turn 65 each day and they are not retiring or living the same way as previous generations.

What did you as the director for the Center for Aging in Place? 

I supported the 10 communities and their leaders throughout Westchester, looking at how to build and sustain the model. The aging in place membership programs in Westchester County do not receive any government funding so sustainability is a big issue. I also created network to connect businesses to leaders and members of aging in place communities – a Life+ Network.  I think engaging the business community is critical — there is a lot of innovation out there and I find the people who could benefit just don’t know about it.

Who is it for? 

People who are looking for ways to stay in “age friendly” communities.

What do the communities do or provide? 

Aging in place is a grassroots movement in Westchester, meaning the groups are started and run by citizens that come together with a vision for a different future for themselves and others.  Most organize as an independent 5013c non-profit. Services vary based on needs of communities but there are generally 3 or 4 core offerings:

1) Central number for information and referrals to a network of community-based services and resources, i.e. home renovations, lawn service

2) Volunteer drivers to take you to appointments if you can’t or don’t want to drive

3) Social and wellness activities and programs

What benefits do members appreciate the most?

The option to remain at  home.  I think a lot of people also like the social engagement – getting older can be isolating and this provides people with the opportunity to meet new people and learn new things.

What is The Village Movement? 

The Village concept emerged in 2001 with the founding of Beacon Hill Village by a group of older adults living in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston.  They wanted to help one another live as long as possible in their own community.  The neighbors who founded Beacon Hill hired an executive director to respond to individual member requests for service providers, transportation to shopping, and educational events.  From Beacon Hill, the model to age in place was established.  Since 2001, more than 125 similar programs have started in the US and 100 more are reportedly in development.

How does this relate to The Village Movement? 

Westchester’s Aging in Place membership groups are based on the Village model and we belong to the national Village to Village Network.

Who should contact The Center for Aging in Place? 

Resident who want to age in place. They can join an existing group or the Center for Aging in Place can help them start a new group.

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