BOSTON — Sitting in his downtown Boston, Massachusetts apartment, Allan Hodges has a view of the city that seems to go on forever. As the 83-year-old retired urban planner slowly makes his way through a new piece of classical music he’s learning on the piano, he quickly opens up about what it’s like trying to find happiness in the later years of life.
“I think one of the dangers of becoming old is becoming lonely,“ he admits.
Hodges' wife suddenly passed away from cancer a few years ago, which forced him to suddenly start over at an age when most Americans have long settled into the comfort of their golden years.
“We don’t have children, so our friends are very important to me,” he added.
Hodges is among the estimated 54.1 million people in this country over the age of 65, many of whom are starting to discover the importance of remaining at home.
After Hodges his wife passed away, he joined what’s known as a Senior Village.
“It’s just been a great way to meet new people,” Hodges said.
Unlike a traditional nursing home or retirement community, there are no physical building residents live in. Instead, they live in their own homes with various support systems in place.
Stephen Roop and his wife Barbara are also members of the Beacon Hill Village, the same one Allan Hodges belongs to.
“It isn’t just the physical place, it’s the neighborhood, it’s the people it’s the connections,” Stephen Roop said.
It’s a concept that’s fairly simple. Members pay a few hundred dollars a year to belong to the village. In return, they get access to a myriad of resources to help them age in place. From a packed calendar of social events to a network of volunteers who help with transportation to the grocery store or doctor’s appointments.
Barbara Hughes Sullivan oversees the Village to Village Network. An organization made up of about 280 villages nationwide with another 80 in the works.
“Sometimes it just helps with things you take for granted but can’t do anymore. Getting on a ladder to change a light bulb,” she said.
“Whether you are 50 years old or 80 years old, you want a sense of purpose and villages do that,” she added.
Hughes Sullivan says many older Americans are turning away from the traditional idea of a nursing home as they need care, especially after the pandemic.
“The pandemic showed us that even in residential living facilities it was scary,” she said.
Back at Allan Hodges' condo in downtown Boston, he’s picked up piano lessons again. He says he is finding comfort and company in a new hobby.
His hope is to remain here at home for as long as he can.
“I have sort of a new lease on life, I don’t want to die.”