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Yale 62

HomeHaven Update

By Gary Audette

[Ed. Note: Louis Audette (known as Gary) was in Saybrook. He served a three-year term as President of HomeHaven and oversaw the transition from a traditional central structure to the hub-and-spoke format he describes here.]


Many of you may remember a brief offering from me 12 years ago [“Aging in Place at Home Haven”] about the establishment of an organization to assist its members to “age in place” in their own homes. At that time we called it East Rock Village, in New Haven, CT, based on the pioneering Beacon Hill Village in Boston. We’re part of the national Village to Village Network. Nowadays, the village movement is sometimes confused with the enormous retirement community called the Villages, in Florida.

By 2010 East Rock Village had grown and morphed into HomeHaven and I’ve reported on its progress in panels at our reunions.

Several factors have contributed to HomeHaven’s success. While every “village” is unique, I’d like to offer these observations about our experience:

1. The locations of volunteer, non-profit organizations supporting aging in place are critical. The most successful are typically in urban settings with dense catchments of white, relatively well-resourced, educated older adults whose children have established careers of their own, usually away from their parents. Efforts to integrate with Black, Hispanic and Gay equivalents have not found much success — they have systems and organizations of their own, tightly knit and often of far longer duration than the recent village movement.

2. Concentrated populations foster effective engagement in social interactions, interest groups and awareness of neighbors’ conditions. At the core, the organizations are committed to assisting their members as they encounter the myriad, often unprepared for, vicissitudes of aging. One of our catchphrases is, “We need to know each other so we can help each other when we need each other.”

3. The tendency to deny the inevitability of aging makes it hard to recruit members. Once in, however, members appreciate the services and referrals. Our retention rate is high, although death and moving away contribute to constant attrition, so ongoing recruitment is a necessity. Although we try to acquire younger members, the age at entry is about 70, and the average age is 79. Individual and couples membership has held steady at around 240 every year.

4. There are several organizational models to support aging in place. HomeHaven uses a “hub-and-spoke” configuration, with a central office for administration, communicating with semi-autonomous “villages” that reflect the different customs and proclivities of the member neighborhoods. The hub handles governance, fund development and routine administration. The spokes each have “Village Leaders” who deal with social activities, interest groupings and they keep close tabs on members’ health and special needs.

5. Despite the expressed wish, aging in place at home for life is seldom realized. At some stage taxes, staircases, health and mobility issues conspire to force relocation to some form of assisted living.

6. There’s a wide range of financial underpinnings used by the villages, ranging from purely voluntary through gifts and grants to formal membership fee structures. Administration is wearing, and the volunteer examples tend to fade quickly. The strongest organizations have membership fees. HomeHaven’s fee structure falls at about 85% of the national average; roughly $750/yr for individuals and $875/yr for couples. Our fees are at about the upper limit for our region, and we routinely face an annual deficit of about 30% of operating costs. Since inception the deficit has had to be met with fund drives and special events. Three years ago our board established a “Sustainability Fund” with a goal of $500,000 to help relieve the deficit burden. As a measure of our success, thanks to gifts and bequests from a supportive membership and a larger community that appreciates HomeHaven’s purpose, the endowment is now fully funded.

We welcome your comments below.

1 comment to HomeHaven Update

  • thomas triplett

    Several years ago, I served as chairman of a senior citizen facility. We concluded that we needed to adopt a wall less campus concept. We identified our service area. People living in their own homes, might require services such as lawn mowing, screen repair, safety bars, etc. We did that for them, we a modest fee. And if the wanted to come to the campus to attend chapel services or to swim or play cards, we ferried them. Then on the campus, we envisioned several layers of help. Living condos for those you did not require care; those who needed assistance; and those who required acute care, such as dementia. But the topper was to create a Montessori school and an intergenerational garden. This created bonds and many surrogate grandparents.