'Lexington At Home' Helps Seniors Live Independently
Group offers social support, gatherings and links to services.
Several retired senior citizens in Lexington have discovered an alternative to moving to a retirement community. Instead, they are living comfortably in their own homes, socializing with one another, participating in activities together, sharing resources for services they may need and helping each other out in times of trouble.
They are the members of Lexington At Home, a cooperative association founded in 2006 by retired Lexington resident Rachel Rosenblum, who came together with the purpose of helping one another remain in their homes as they age and become more dependent, according to Rosenblum.
"The broad goal of the association is to provide social and emotional support to its members, so that no one feels alone," she said.
Lexington At Home now has two chapters, Adams and Buckman (named after local colonial Patriots) and is on its way to forming a third by the New Year.
Rosenblum came up with the idea for the "Naturally Occurring Retirement Community," referred to as a NORC, when she was reading a column in the New York Times Magazine about a similar organization in Princeton, N.J., called "Community Without Walls."
She said it got her thinking about how she and her husband, Myron, would manage their next stage of life. She talked about the idea with friends and generated a lot of interest which inspired her to start her own similar organization.
Rosenblum's educational background and career experience is in community organization, management and planning which gave her all the tools she needed to start the group.
Rosenblum refers to the group as a "three-legged stool," providing social and emotional support, help-in-a-pinch and access to services beyond the association.
The help-in-a-pinch program is central to the mission of Lexington At Home, she said. It invites members to volunteer to take on a responsibility should someone else in the group need help in the short range until real services can be built in. For example, meals at home when someone is not well, rides back and forth to doctor appointments, walking dogs, shopping, friendly visits and any kind of help someone may need if they are stuck in the house for health reasons, she said.
Requirements for membership with Lexington At Home include being a Lexington resident, committing to being an active member of one or more of the group's Resource Teams, which provide lists of relevant resources in the community and beyond (such as fitness and health classes, homemaker services, safety accommodations in the home and transportation), and payment of an annual membership fee, which is currently $25 per year.
Members take turns holding monthly meetings at each other's private homes. During the meetings, they socialize and often have a speaker on a topic of interest to the membership, said Rosenblum.
There are other models of communities such as Beacon Hill Village and Cambridge At Home which Rosenblum describes as "top down" or "concierge" models where members pay a fairly good chunk of money per year for a lot of nice services which include a paid staff that will help them find what they need and arrange for their services. The services are paid for separately, in addition to the membership fee.
"Our's is a bottom up model, a grass roots model, which begins with a group of people who voluntarily come together to make this happen," said Rosenblum.
Each chapter of Lexington At Home – Adams and Buckman – has up to 40 members led by a steering committee. There is an overall association board which oversees the chapters. Each chapter operates separately, with its own programs, and its own help-in-a-pinch program, she said.
Gary Fallick is a member of the Lexington At Home board and chairman of the Adams chapter. He and his wife, Bebe (former Lexington Town Clerk), have lived in Lexington since 1964. Neither of them have siblings, and their adult children live out of state.
Fallick found out about the group from a friend and enjoys the comradery and safety net it offers, he said.
"We have broadened our circle of acquaintances in a very comfortable situation," he said. "People are open to one another and all focused on the real objective of the organization which is to help each other as we age and stay in our own homes."
Kay Tiffany, another longtime Lexington resident and a member of the Adams chapter steering committee, joined because she likes the idea of having a group of people similar in age, committed to staying in their own homes.
"The stereotype of an old person feeling lonely, this is an antidote to that," said Tiffany.
More information on Lexington At Home can be found on the group's website.