Partnering to Promote Aging in Place
Cynthia Campbell, Director of PD&R's International and Philanthropic Affairs Division.
In late October 2018, I had the honor of attending the third U.S.-Japan Aging in Place Research Forum, which HUD hosted at our regional offices in San Francisco. The forum provided an opportunity for researchers from Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (which includes housing); Policy Research Institute; and Urban Renaissance Agency to meet with our research team at the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R). Joining me in representing PD&R were Calvin Johnson, Carol Star, and Leah Lozier. Other participants in the forum included Thomas Azumbrado, regional director of HUD’s Multifamily West Region; Libby Cochran, multifamily program analyst; and Rhonda Horn, grants specialist in the Multifamily West Asset Management Division at the Denver Regional Satellite Office.
As previously highlighted in PD&R Edge, HUD has partnered with the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to explore innovative housing policy and urban planning approaches to aging in place and community development for older adults; inclusive housing and urban development strategies for older adults in Japan and the United States; and effective partnership among the public sector, private sector, and nonprofit organizations to achieve successful aging in place.
Both countries are facing a “silver tsunami” of aging. Japan has the world’s oldest population, with a median age of 47.3 years and a life expectancy of 85.3 years. The United States has a median age of 37.7 years with a life expectancy of 78.7 years. Fifteen percent of the U.S. population is over age 65, and 27 percent of Japan’s population is age 65 and older. The number of Americans aged 65 and older will double from 46 million today to more than 98 million by 2060, making up 24 percent of the U.S. population.
Since the project began, the research team has narrowed the scope of research to two main areas: supportive services in housing and the naturally occurring retirement community (NORC)/village concept. Both concepts involve a community where residents are aging in place, whether that place is a high rise, a city block, or an entire neighborhood. NORCs tend to be run by a local nonprofit, whereas a village is often a fee-based co-op or something resembling a homeowners association. NORCs and villages both provide services such as transportation to appointments or shopping, help with light chores, social activities, and outreach activities. Villages charge a nominal annual fee to join and are sometimes subsidized by grants. NORCs are more often funded through grants from nonprofits and, in some cases, state funding.
The first stop on our site visit schedule was a visit to the University of California–Berkeley Center for the Advanced Study of Aging Services to meet with Dr. Andrew Scharlach and his team. He discussed his current research projects, Creating Aging-Friendly Communities and the UC Berkeley Villages Project. Scharlach is a strong advocate for the village movement; his research has shown improved quality of life among participants in the village movement. We visited the Ashby Village in Berkeley to hear firsthand how their village offers services and support to seniors. We also met with residents of NEXT Village San Francisco. Both visits gave us a well-rounded overview of how villages support those who are aging in place. We also had a chance to talk to residents who benefit from the services offered.
One of the most important aspects of the village and NORC models is volunteer effort. Volunteers are the backbone of the village movement; they offer rides to appointments, help with minor chores, conduct visits, and help seniors in several areas. Our Japanese counterparts asked for a brief on how to increase volunteerism. They were impressed by the number of Americans who volunteer their time. We had HandsOn Bay Area, a volunteer organization that helps people find volunteer opportunities, give a presentation on encouraging volunteerism. During the forum we also visited the Dorothy Day Community, an Integrated Wellness in Supportive Housing demonstration site, and the Japanese delegation visited Peralta Village in West Oakland.
The U.S.-Japan Aging in Place Research Project will continue into 2019 with further research and case studies focusing on senior supportive services, NORCs, and the village aging in place movement.