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The Value Of Community Centered Living

The Value Of Community Centered Living

By Susan Williams

All of us would like to age in a comfortable and caring community – but what exactly does that look like?

Joe Carella believes he knows what it is.

Joe is the Executive Director of the Scandinavian Living Center in Newton, MA as well as the author of Creating Unlimited Options For Aging: The Path Forward. Joe discovered his passion for caring for older people as a result of being placed in a geriatric ward of a hospital recovering from an injury. During his stay, Joe witnessed the amount of isolation for elders and saw it as a stark contrast to the close-knit, multi-generational “we all take care of one another” community he grew up in. As a result of this experience, it set him off on a journey to find a new model and in his search he discovered community centered living.

In this Learning Bites episode, Joe joined us to discuss what exactly is the philosophy and thinking behind a community centered living model and some of the value that has resulted to both the residents and the community.

Here is our discussion;

Here are some of the highlights of our conversation;

  • The intention of community centered living is to eliminate institutional isolation, segregation and design. It is intended to create the opportunity for people from the community to gather and for the residents – regardless of their current support needs from nursing home to independence – feel that they are engaged as part of this larger community.
  • To create this setting, Joe suggests it’s best to start with the gathering needs of the community and then create a welcoming, residential setting for the entire community.
  • What happens when the community is involved, all their clubs and programs become part of the residents opportunities for connection as well as the residents programs also being available to the community
  • A good analogy is that the residence becomes a community center hub for the community that also provides living accommodations. It’s about building something for the entire community.
  • So many people want to stay in their own homes because they do not want to go into an institution that segregates and isolates them. By building community centered living options, Joe is able to educate the community on a “new normal” option for aging. A center that allows for everyone to be involved.
  • The Scandinavian’s have embraced this model for some time and the reason is that they believe in community – and focus on keeping people together. Joe believes that our current models in North America are based on housing and protection and as a result of this we isolate our older population. We currently do not believe that housing could also be a gathering place.
  • For example, Joe’s center receives 2000 visitors a month (and this is not including family and friends of the residents). The Scandinavian Living Center is considered to be a “cool” place to gather by the community
  • The activities that the residence supports is anything that the community wants. Joe starts his programs with what does the community need. They are not limited by programs only for their residents. The community pays to participate and the residents get the value of attending any of the programs and not having to pay.
  • In order to implement this type of community centered living model, Joe believes the community must be involved. If anyone is interested in starting this type of living option, Joe suggests start with the city and towns and discuss the gathering needs for their community and then build from there.

If you are interested in seeing more of Booming Encore’s Learning Bites, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.