Getting older can often be quite a frightening prospect for many seniors. After years of independence and having things done the way we like it, it can be hard to face the thought of having to leave all that we hold near and dear to move into a retirement home or care facility. It's not really a surprise that more than 90% of seniors would prefer to rather age at home than in a strange environment.
Unfortunately we can't always determine the amount of help we will need as we get older. The human body tends to let one down quite spectacularly as one climbs the ladder of age, one rung at a time. Being seniors doesn't mean that all of a sudden you lose the desire to be social and enjoy the camaraderie of regular visits with friends and family.
Sadly those who aren't as mobile as they used to be often do lose touch with others due to the fact that they can't get around the way they used to. The good news, though, is that even whilst we don't have much control over how our body ages, we do have control over what happens when we reach the age of seniority.
Thanks to technology and some innovative thinking, seniors can now approach retirement without dread lurking in the background. Instead of uprooting oneself and moving into a retirement village, seniors are now able to enjoy the benefits of being part of a social community whilst still being able to age in place and retain their independence.
Being part of a community is very important, but so often we see that even though people are living in a community, they end up isolated and lonely because they are not socially engaged.
This was even more apparent during the height of the pandemic as being forced to isolate caused seniors to experience loneliness, which in turn often led to depression. Friends and family are what enrich our lives and it is one of the reasons why seniors tend to dread retirement and falling into the category of those who need to think about assisted living.
What Is a Virtual Retirement Community?
Since being part of a community is so important (even more so as we get older), it became apparent that something needed to be done to make the resources available to more than just those who physically lived within a retirement community. Aging in place is all about embracing the need for support whilst still living independently.
It is this concept which makes virtual retirement communities so attractive to seniors. In a nutshell, a virtual retirement community is simply neighbors caring for neighbors. These virtual retirement communities are formed to give seniors the help they need in and around their home, while still staying in their own, comfortable home.
Members are given a wide range of support in areas such as non-medical household tasks, repairs, yard work, transportation to and from appointments, errands and so on.
Members are also encouraged to attend social events that prevent them from feeling isolated and lonely. Being a part of a virtual community helps members feel that they are independent whilst still having the support they need in order to age in place.
Virtual communities, no matter where they are or who started them, all have a few things in common. The main thing being that their community members don't want to leave their comfortable homes and be shepherded about by people half their age, being told what to do or when to do it. They want the freedom of being able to enjoy their usual activities and continue to have family meals, without being a burden on their grown up children or on others.
Other characteristics of virtual communities include (but are not limited to) the following:
- They sponsor social events for members.
- They provide a strong sense of community for their members.
- They are designed to be inclusive and reflective of the community.
- They offer a vast range of preferred service providers for their members.
- They have transportation networks to get members where they need to go.
Overall the community events are tailored to the specific tastes of the members so that there is always something for everyone. These activities and social events also aid members in staying connected so that they don't become one of the many seniors who feel isolated and cast off.
One of the main differences between a real retirement village community and a virtual one is the overall cost of membership. Whereas living in an assisted village will cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $20, 000 plus a year, being a part of a virtual community will cost you much less.
Obviously each community is different and costs will depend on their services, but generally the cost is still phenomenally less than that of retirement communities with assisted living.
Some virtual communities will charge a higher rate due to the fact that they hire in staff, whereas other charge less because their staff is made up of mostly volunteers.
Joining Or Setting Up a Virtual Community
For those who wish to join one of these virtual communities, the process is quite simple. All you have to do is to visit the Village to Village Network page and then left-click on the About Page and then again on the Village Map.
You will then be able to select search parameters in order to find a village near you. Otherwise, you can browse the map itself which is further down the page. All you have to do is to simply left-click on one of the colorful location pins that are shown on the map.
Once you left-click on it, it will then expand the map and will show you where you can find a virtual retirement community near you. If you want to get the details of the community, all you have to do is to left-click on the location pin and all the details will be shown in a pop-up window.
If, however, you would like to start your own virtual retirement community, it would be wise to first do some homework on how other communities are run and what they offer. Once you have done a sufficient amount of research into what it will take to begin, you can then find out how much interest there is in your area for such a community.
Every group of people is unique and has unique needs. Some may desire more practical help such as a visit from a podiatrist once a month or a nail technician who can come in and trim their nails. Consider the need for a hairdresser and also a laundry service who will collect the laundry and return it once it is cleaned, ironed and folded. All these can be done at a nominal fee that can be included in the annual membership fee.
In order to start your own community in a safe manner, make sure that all those involved are fully informed about what a virtual retirement community is and what it entails, what the offers are and how much it will cost.
Village to Village Network also has a Village 101 Toolkit which you will be able to access if you join the Network. Added to this you can also sign up to the mentor program which will give you access to an experienced Village organizer who will be able to aid you in setting up your community.
By making sure that you do proper research and get the advice and guidance of those who have gone before you, you will be able to have confidence that your virtual retirement community will be a success.
Have volunteers in the community who are willing to take care of the little in-home "emergencies" which elderly people often struggle with. Emergencies such as replacing light fixtures or bulbs, mending a leaky tap, raking the leaves in the yard, or just taking out the trash once a week.
Having a list of volunteers that come recommended and are highly trustworthy and punctual is a definite must-have when starting a virtual retirement village of your own. Seniors rely on these volunteers to be there when needed and they need to know that they (and their possessions) will be safe.
Dignity In the Golden Years (Aging in Place)
As you can see, the concept of the virtual retirement communities are all about helping seniors to age in place with grace and dignity, allowing them to enjoy the golden years whilst receiving the support and care they need on a day to day basis. It also greatly aids in giving seniors a sense of worth and accomplishment, which in turn aids in mental health and well-being.
Nobody can tell you how to age or what to do once retirement hits -- the choice is yours.
Some people may find that they prefer living in an actual retirement village, but for those who wish to remain in the comfort of their own home amidst their own familiar surroundings, a virtual retirement community may be just what the doctor ordered.
As always, if you're needing any kind of additional help with any facet of the virtual retirement community experience, consider reaching out to HelpCloud technicians for remote support.