From the editor...

This second 2012 issue of Itineraries continues our focus on Community in Later Life. Guest editor Janice Blanchard, whom I have known for nearly a decade as a trusted colleague and a pioneer in her own right, has assembled a collection of essays on a subject especially close to her heart; Aging in Community. You will find provocative and enlightening essays by Bill Thomas, Sarah Susanka, Philip Stafford, and many others. We hope you find the articles stimulating and illuminating!



Expanded online edition!

Betty Friedan’s 1963 watershed book, The Feminine Mystique, defined — to the great relief of many American women — “the problem that has no name.” By every societal measure, women living the mid-century, middle-class American Dream should have been thrilled with their roles as suburban housewives and mothers. The problem was, Friedan revealed, that many felt dissatisfied with their lives and longed for something more meaningful than maintaining homes and caring for their families.

First, as a family caregiver, and later as a gerontologist, I experienced similar nagging feelings about aging in place being lauded as a panacea for institutional care. Given the literal and figurative price of living in a nursing home, however, what was there to dispute? Besides, research confirmed overwhelmingly, most Americans wanted to age in place! Like Friedan, however, I could not reconcile the discrepancies between people’s ideals and what is real for so many elders.

The reality is millions of older Americans struggle physically, financially, and emotionally to stay in homes and communities not designed to accommodate their changing needs. Without meaningful social connection and support, many suffer the same three plagues that afflict residents in nursing homes—loneliness, boredom and helplessness. In the aftermath of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina in which elders at home disproportionately died, the question became inescapable: Isn’t there a better way to care for our elders than sentencing them to institutions or leaving them to age in place?

With this issue of Itineraries, my pilgrimage with Second Journey comes full circle in raising and answering this question. In May 2005 I attended Second Journey’s Visioning Council at Bill and Jude Thomas’s Summer Hill Farm in upstate New York. About two dozen visionaries gathered to contemplate innovative solutions to creating community in later life. We discussed institutional long-term-care facilities at one end of the spectrum, and “aging in place” at the other. We also discussed new models of communities that were emerging between these two extremes. We categorized the features of the “physical environment” — the tangible aspects of community design, such as the site plan and orientation, unit design, walkability, and incorporation of green and universal design principles — and the “social software” — those aspects of a community that nurture social, spiritual, emotional, creative, and civic life — that we believed exemplified such communities. And we gave a name to this new paradigm of intentional communities — communities created by small groups of people committed to helping elders stay in their homes and stay meaningfully connected to their communities; we called it “aging in community.”

It is exciting to see how far we have come in seven years! Google “aging in community” and you will find 57,800 references to articles, initiatives, and research in this area. In this Itineraries issue, we are delighted to share some of the wisdom and experiences of our colleagues and friends who are blazing this trail together. From essays that describe the vision of aging in community, to specific programs you can adapt to your neighborhood, we hope these writings will inspire you to create ways to age at home while nurturing and deepening a meaningful connection to community.


Six additional articles have now been posted to the original online edition. These include contributions by Sarah Susanka, Ross Chapin, Janet Stambolian, Philip Stafford, Anne Glass, and Bolton Anthony. Go to descriptions...

Previously published

In “Moving Beyond Place,” Blanchard and co-author Bill Thomas introduce readers to the concept of aging in community, deconstructing the false choice we have been presented in old age, between institutionalization and an idealized vision of “home.”

It was an early morning talk by Bill Thomas that first got Tim Carpenter's creative juices flowing. In "An Artist Colony Where You Never Have to Go Home," he gives a riveting account of the amazing power of a truly new idea.

 In “Reweaving the Social Fabric of Our Communities,” Blanchard gives the back story and lays the foundation for how aging in community projects can revitalize our capacity to care for one another.

Bridging the concepts of aging in place and aging in community, Susan Poor makes the case that for middle-class Americans, staying at home may be the only affordable and available option. Poor provides a detailed compendium of current options available, from institutional long-term care to innovative grassroots models.

Mia Oberlink describes how the AdvantAge Initiative has successfully employed online surveys with older residents to assess needs and reveal community assets, and in so doing, provides another avenue to engage elders in the effort to improve communities for all ages.

Social capital and social networks are important components of successful aging and cornerstones for aging in community. Tobi Abramson defines these closely related concepts and illustrates how they work synergistically within aging-in-community projects to optimize mental and social health.

Elders are the most innovative and influential leaders in developing aging-in-community projects. Their vision and voice are integral to aging in community values. We are pleased to feature contributions of three elders in this issue.

Teddi Shattuck, whose painting, “My Garden,” graces the cover of the print version of this issue of Itineraries, is a resident of Burbank Senior Artists Colony in Burbank, CA. Her work is displayed in galleries around the world.

Susan McWhinney-Morse is a co-founder of the renowned Beacon Hill Village in Boston, MA. McWhinney-Morse has won several leadership awards for her pioneering work in developing the Village model, which is replicated in almost 100 cities, with more in the works.

Ann Zabaldo is a national leader in the cohousing movement, specializing in elder cohousing. She speaks poignantly about her experience of aging in community from the perspective of both being older and living with the challenges of having multiple sclerosis.


Have you had the conversation?

That's the question that troubled Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Ellen Goodman in the aftermath of her own mother's death.

She did something about it. She helped launch The Conversation Project which has at its core a simple and transformative goal: to have every person’s end-of-life wishes expressed and respected. Too many Americans die in a manner not of their choosing. The Conversation Project wants to change that through a public campaign that encourages open and honest discussions among families and friends.

Read Ellen's invitation to YOU to “have the conversation.”


in Later Life

A lover said of his wife of 30 years, “I know her so well now that I have not the slightest idea who she really is.” This loving openness is the fruit of letting go and letting be. It fosters a life where each friend is capable of surprising us, capable of appearing newly, again and again...

Second Journey’s “philosopher in residence” John G. Sullivan is a regular contributor to Itineraries and the author of The Spiral of the Seasons; Welcoming the Gifts of Later Life and The Fourfold Path to Wholeness; A Compass for the Heart.

Life Gets Better!

A review of Wendy Lustbader's new book

Long a soldier in the war against western culture’s bias against aging, Wendy Lustbader, in her new book Life Gets Better; The Unexpected Pleasures of Growing Older, argues that our fear and dread of growing older is unjustified as she targets assumptions that youth is the best time of life.

The reviewer, Barbara Kammerlohr, is the Second Journey Book Page Editor.


Additional online articles

Pocket Communities

Our hunch that there was a market for small homes in a community setting proved true. The cottages quickly sold to working and retired single women, empty nesters, and a couple with a 3-year-old child. Within a few months, word got out about our pocket neighborhood across the country, with articles in numerous magazines, newspapers, and cable TV. The response we received was electric...

Aging Better Together

Many older people are happily ensconced in a network of family and friends and meaningful activities and have all the support that they will need to help them deal with whatever the future holds. For others, however, especially those without close family, the aging process can be frightening if they see themselves walking that path alone...

Lessons of an Accidental Developer

My mother used to tell everybody that I’ve been “an administrator since the age of two.” As a child, those qualities probably didn’t always endear me to adults. Nor — once is was an adult — to job supervisors. But they were exactly those traits, refined over the years, that served me well in my unexpected career as an accidental real estate developer....

The Not So Big Community

If we look at what we love about the hill towns and villages of Italian Tuscany or the well-weathered stone cottages of the English Cotswolds, there’s something timeless and at the same time deeply connected to nature that draws us in and makes us want to explore them and spend time in them. Most American towns and cities have precious little of these same qualities...

Isn’t This Where We Started?
Irony and Remembering in Late Life

“Though many of my former friends may seem to have forgotten me, let me not forget myself in despair. Though all the world may seem unfriendly, please do not let me become unfriendly with myself...”

Back to the Garden:
Woodstock Nation Values Re-emerge

For the past 40 years . . . idealistic boomers have retained their commitment to the values that inspired them during the amazing period of transformation and expansion in their youth. The time is now for planners, architects, developers, and builders to work diligently and help those who want to “get back to the garden” do so with a strong sense of community, meaning, and full engagement. . .

Creating Community in Later Life

Later life is less about experience and more about meaning. . . If we are to create new friendships in later life, we must consciously create new shareable experiences. If they are to be deep friendships, they must be around experiences that engage our deepest, emergent self. That’s probably not golf — or, more generally, leisure and consumption. . . [But] it may be those things which have to do with “work, love and learning. . .”