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McDaniel College hosts aging-in-place presentation

As residents age and friends and family move away, it can be difficult to adjust to living alone.

McDaniel College will host a presentation Monday by the Carroll County Commission on Aging and Disability and the college's Center for the Study of Aging on the concept of aging-in-place villages in order to gauge interest for such a facility in Carroll.

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An aging-in-place village is a loosely connected community of seniors living in their own homes with access to social activities, wellness programs and transportation, said Mary Ann Straughn, of the Carroll County Commission on Aging.

Concepts in the presentation include increasing mobility and transportation opportunities for seniors and hosting educational and social programs.

"In a village community, you can have volunteers travel around and bring in the trash cans after garbage day. Someone else can help take people to doctor's appointments," Straughn said. "Transportation is a big deal. Once you lose your wheels, you are at everybody's mercy."

Diane Martin, of the Center for the Study of Aging at McDaniel, said the move toward an aging-in-place initiative is new for Carroll County.

"The idea is to connect older adults who are living independently in the community, who live by themselves, to recognize resources," Martin said. "This goes far beyond just the idea of home aides. It includes all of the ideas of aging successfully."

The program addresses various dimensions of wellness, including social, intellectual and physical. Straughn said the commission has been looking at already-established villages throughout Maryland for program ideas.

"One of the things you have to deal with is the isolation of aging. One of the villages in Dupont Circle decided to have a Sunday night soup, to give people a reason to go out on a Sunday night," Straughn said. "If they don't have family or don't have places to be, it's really important to know other people and have the opportunity to meet with them."

About 14 percent of Carroll County residents are older than 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2030, that demographic is expected to grow to 25 percent.

"There just aren't enough beds for people to go to nursing homes or assisted living, and a lot of people can't afford to go to the alternatives for them," Martin said. "[Aging in place] provides an alternative where you stay in your home, and we in the community offer the resources that allow you to continue to age the way you want to age."

Monday's meeting will act as a kickoff for aging in place, explaining to guests what the village concept is and what the vision is for the senior community, Straughn said. There will be a PowerPoint presentation, a guest speaker and the opportunity for a Q-and-A.

"We hope to do a needs assessment, because even though we're all fired up, we don't know for sure that the people in Carroll County want this," Straughn said. "Without a needs assessment, it's very difficult to move it forward."

Straughn said the needs assessment will be created at the McDaniel Center for the Study of Aging and performed by students sometime after this initial meeting.

"This is definitely an idea that is growing in popularity. It's happening around the country; it's happening around the county," Martin said. "Every county in Maryland is working on a feasibility study to figure out what are the needs and what are the resources for something like this."

The village communities are paid for by the residents, Martin said, with costs often changing on a sliding scale based on participants' income. Straughn said she hopes the idea catches on because she believes it will greatly improve seniors' lives.

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"We want to stay in our homes for as long as we can, but we also want to be connected to our community," Straughn said. "We don't want to bother our kids, or they've moved away, but there are still a number of needs that need to be assessed. I guess that's the biggest concept, that we stay and live on our own terms."

Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 or jacob.denobel@carrollcountytimes.com.

If you go

What: "Carroll Farmstead: A Carroll County Aging in Place Initiative"

When: 6 to 8 p.m.

Where: The Forum, Decker College Center, McDaniel College, 2 College Hill, Westminster

For more information: Visit http://www.mcdaniel.edu or call 410-386-4646

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