When older adults and seniors live by themselves, it’s easy to become complacent and set in their schedules. Maybe they wake at a specific time to watch their morning program on TV, with a cup of tea in one hand and a newspaper on the kitchen table. Laura Connors, Executive Director at Beacon Hill Village (BHV), knows first-hand the importance and benefits of remaining engaged with the community for people over 50-years-old.
“The support system that Beacon Village puts in place enables people to live at home longer,” says Laura Connors, who has been working at the Village since May 1, 2012.
After spending 20 years working in business, Connors took a seven year sabbatical to care for the elders in her family. Her mother had Alzheimer’s, and it seemed that one relative after another needed additional assistance. Her father came to live with her family, and also her husband’s 100-year-old grandmother. During this leave from her career, she also did some non-profit work.
In 2007, Connors decided to shift gears. Her father was in need of more care than she could provide, her husband’s grandmother passed away, and her son was off at college. She began taking classes at Boston College and received her Master’s in Social Work, specializing in older adults. Connors then interned at the Jewish Family Service of Metrowest in Framingham in geriatric care management. Her second internship, at the Beth Israel Deaconess, involved in-patient social work, and seeing out-patients in the Cognitive Neurology Department dealing with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Connors finished that program in 2010 and continued working at the Aging and Disability Resource Consortia as Coordinator for the State. She visited the Beacon Hill Village and knew immediately that it was the organization for her.
BHV was the first of its kind in the country in 2002, and has grown to almost 400 members. The Village Movement promotes living the best, most fruitful and active life possible. For some, being a part of the BHV may postpone or take away the need for them going into nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
“The programs and services that we have in place enhance somebody’s ability to maximize their own health, their own independence, and their sociability,” says Connors.
The Village has a plethora of social, culture, and intellectual programs to interest all members. Twice a month during Conversation With, BHV brings in notable speakers to give lectures, and conduct open discussions afterward with members.
The organization also plans an assortment of field trips. In August, a group visited the lighthouses in the Boston harbor; during another time, they traveled to an organ factory. Next week they are going to western Massachusetts to see a fully-sustainable home built by one the founding members of BHV. Soon, members will be taking a trip to the Peabody Essex Museum.
The BHV also has special interest groups that have conversations about art, the theater, and politics.
Exercise programs meet three times a week so folks can work together. Some local fitness clubs offer discounts to Village members.
The BHV recently announced their collaboration with the Boston Center for Adult Education, who has developed a series of cooking classes to teach members how to create smaller portioned meals for those who live alone.
Their home-care agencies provide healthcare assistance, repairs, and even teach people how to use their computers.
“People are committed to taking care of each other,” says Connors.