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In April 2006, a number of New Canaan residents convened at the home of a colleague to learn about Beacon Hill Village (BHV) in Boston. A "virtual retirement community" or "aging in place" initiative, BHV is a nonprofit membership organization created by and for local residents to help them enjoy safer, healthier and more independent lives in their own homes.
Discussion followed as to whether such a model might be adapted to our very different community, and response was enthusiastic. Coincidentally, two months later, New Canaan's Department of Health and Human Services presented the findings of its major survey entitled "New Canaan Residents 65 Years and Older 2006 Needs Assessment." Key concerns cited by local older adults were:
Health and safety: How to take care of yourself and/or get help as needed;
Housing: How to get help with household chores, marketing and maintenance;
Finances: Where to turn for reliable advice in managing funds;
Socialization: How to stay connected to the community and maintain social contacts as mobility decreases;
Transportation: How to expand transportation alternatives for those who no longer drive; and
Communication: How to combat loneliness and a sense of isolation as one ages.
The publication of this document spurred increased interest among New Canaan's older residents who wanted to improve their quality of life in their own homes as they aged. The scarcity and difficulties of erecting better alternatives makes the home the place many must remain in for the greatest possible health and comfort.
"Staying Put" held a number of general meetings, and by January 2007 our mailing list had grown to 155 individuals who wanted to be kept informed of our progress. At that point, we established a Steering Committee to carry out the necessary work to become a corporation. A survey was sent to our mailing list to assess priority of service offerings. It drew responses from 150 people, more than 50 of whom said they would be willing to volunteer.
A town-wide meeting on June 14 at the New Canaan Library was attended by an overflow crowd of 200 interested residents, confirming a high level of interest in Staying Put. We had our "kickoff" in early October, 2007.
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