JP OBSERVER: The Longer One Lives, The More Services Offered Here, it Seems

Life is getting better for people getting older in Jamaica Plain these days. Innovative services for local residents approaching traditional retirement age and beyond are on the increase.

At two events in JP last month programs were highlighted that are designed to improve a range of activities, from shopping, home safety, intergenerational relations, and income stability to decision-making itself for those residents—thereby helping the whole JP community.

[Note: What to call people over 60 or so is controversial these days, as I have observed and was reported in the Boston Globe on March 7. This column and its headline attempts to avoid using various terms that offend various people, such as: senior, elder, old(er) person, aging person, geriatric person, and person in their golden years—not always with success.]

Speaking of labels, the City of Boston recently announced its romantic sounding Commission on Affairs of the Elderly—around for decades—has been transformed into the powerful Age Strong (AGE+) Commission by Mayor Marty Walsh’s administration. (Strong-ager? Hmmmm.)

The Age Strong Commission is now sponsoring the Age and Dementia Friendly Business designation. Nicole Chandler from Age Strong described what the City’s Boston Seniority magazine called the “new pilot program that encourages local businesses to make their spaces and services more inclusive for all ages” at the Jamaica Plain Business and Professional Association meeting on Feb. 20.

Becoming an Age and Dementia Friendly Business is both simple and substantial for local businesses. Business people fill out an application, take a 50-minute training and check off items on a list showing they have taken seven of various actions like ensuring patient staff, providing resting areas and non-slip floors, etc. In exchange, the City of Boston gives those businesses free publicity and recognition of their commitment to older adults.

So far, eleven JP businesses, most in Hyde and Jackson Squares, have become certified. AGE+ staff are reaching out to other business districts in JP now, too. For more information, visit boston.gov/age-strong; call the Age Strong Commission at 617-635-4366; or contact a local JP Main Street program.

What was called an “Intergenerational Homeshare Pilot” conducted by the City of Boston in 2017 was so successful, Nesterly, an online service founded by two MIT graduates that worked with the City on the pilot, now regularly matches Boston area graduate students with empty-nesters who have spare bedrooms.

More than 50 matches have been made in the greater Boston area over the past year with no major problems, according to Nesterly’s Boston Community Manager Nieves Edwards.

She and other representatives of local organizations supporting people who want to live in their private homes as long as possible, described helpful housing related services to members of [email protected] recently. The information session sponsored by the member-driven program of Ethos was held on March 8 at Rogerson House on the Jamaicaway.

The genius of Nesterly lies in how simple it is for two deserving parties—a homeowner and a grad student—to cooperate to make both of their lives significantly better for a time. Basically, homeowners offer a room to a grad student for something around $700 a month for no fewer than 30 days in a row. The two learn about one another and reach agreement by communicating on the secure Nesterly platform. They put up profiles and go on to answer set questions about time, furnishings, any tasks the grad student might offer or the owner might seek, etc.

This program matches empty-nesters in bigger spaces here with grad students who want housing in a great neighborhood near the T.

Nesterly staff offers ongoing support with the online part and answers other questions, too. Rents get paid securely through the Nesterly site. The service is reasonably priced at a one-time matching fee of $90-$195 plus just 2.15 percent of the rent each month. For more information about this much-needed, new intergenerational homeshare program, call 781-205-9607 or go to www.nesterly.io

ESAC Executive Director Emily Morris Litonjua told the crowd about a range of Senior Assistance Programs the 53-year old JP-based nonprofit offers that focus on health and safety as it relates to their housing. The Senior Assistance Program motto of “Helping Seniors Age Safely at Home!” fits nicely with [email protected]’s “Aging Well Together.”

Senior Assistance Programs for low and moderate income people include: Fall Prevention, Benefit Enrollment Center, Home Repair for Seniors and Disabled Persons, and Mortgage Assistance.

ESAC’s Home Modification Loan Program (HMLP) offers very affordable loans for home improvements, including bathrooms so “seniors can plan to live in their homes longer.” A household of two, with one person with an ambulatory deficit, can make up to $165,600 to still qualify. This program is funded by the Mass Rehab Council through CEDAC and Boston Metro Housing.

For more information about ESAC programs, see www.esacboston.org or call 617-524-2555.

Silvie Agudelo spoke to the group about the great concept of “universal design.” She called it a “way of thinking” that recognizes that all humans to be safe and secure. So, for a simple example, an older or disabled person may need grab bars in the shower, but the bars might be handy for younger adults as well. More and more new building plans incorporate the concept.

“Options Counseling” sounds mysterious until you listen to Options Counselor Marie Alice Similien of Ethos describe it. People over 60 and people with disabilities of any age who need it—as they try to figure out where and how they should live based on changing circumstances—really appreciate it.

Similien, as an Options Counselor, helps people develop their own personal long-term care plan and connects them to supports for that. Options Counseling is a free service funded by a consortium of Massachusetts public and private non-profit entities.

Similien can be contacted at Ethos at 617-477-6727 or at [email protected] Ethos is a private, non-profit organization established in 1973 that is dedicated to promoting independence, dignity, and well-being among the elderly and disabled through quality, affordable and culturally-appropriate home and community-based care. In addition to hosting the membership-based [email protected] for many of the southwest Boston neighborhoods, Ethos also coordinates all the non-institutional home and community-based services for elderly and disabled residents of West Roxbury, Hyde Park, Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, and Mattapan. Information about [email protected] and all Ethos programs can be found at Ethocare.org or 617-522-6700.

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