Virtual Retirement Communities
Today's high-tech society has provided seniors with a number of ways to improve their livelihood. Social media allows seniors to keep in touch with family and friends. They can use smartphones to video chat with loved ones who lead busy lives thousands of miles away. Seniors can also access important information like how to find senior housing options simply with the use of a computer and the internet.
Another benefit that technology brings to the seniors of the 21st century is the advent of virtual retirement communities. If you are an active senior who wants to live at home but within a connected group of other seniors in your area, this might be the perfect solution.
What are Virtual Retirement Communities?
A virtual retirement community, also known as an aging in place community, provides seniors with access to senior living services in their area. For senior citizens who want, and are physically able, to stay in their home, a virtual community is a smart option. The primary goal of an aging in place community is to provide seniors with assisted living services that enable them to remain within their current community. For many, this is an ideal solution. It allows them to remain in the comfort and security of their network of neighbors and friends. They do not have to deal with the stress and difficulties of trying to make new social connections that are required when moving to a new home.
It is quite affordable, while still providing seniors with an essential element of any senior housing option—a sense of community. Seniors in a virtual community pay an annual membership fee. This money goes to staff who are assisted by volunteers. As a team, these individuals may provide the seniors in the community with a range of services, such as:
- Transportation to the grocery store, shopping centers, or doctors' appointments
- Senior outings, such as group trips to a nature park, concert, or movie theater
- Assemblies and lectures with senior services providers, such as Social Security representatives or medical doctors specializing in mental health issues of seniors
- Exercise sessions for seniors, such as yoga, water aerobics, or hiking
- Aid for seniors who need someone to accompany them to appointments
- Home repairs for seniors
- Dog walking, pet grooming, or taking pets to vet appointments
- Hosting potlucks and get-togethers for holidays and special occasions, such as seniors' birthdays
Ultimately these virtual retirement communities can offer almost any type of program or service that its members recommend or request as a group. This gives the seniors the opportunity to create their own community that best serves their needs.
How are Virtual Retirement Communities Different?
There are a few ways that virtual retirement communities are different from independent living, assisted living, nursing homes, and other traditional retirement communities. The biggest difference is that a virtual community is constructed geographically within an existing community.
Seniors do not move into this community. Instead, they search for a virtual community that encompasses or provides services to their local area. In traditional retirement communities, seniors move into another house. This takes them out of their original community and often their geographical location.
Another difference involves the level of care provided, as virtual retirement communities offer a low level of care. In fact, seniors who live in a virtual retirement community will need to be able to manage daily tasks, such as getting dressed and preparing their meals.
If they require additional medical care, this will involve hiring an in-home nurse or home health care aide. A virtual retirement community is not set up or certified to offer in-home medical care. For seniors who need a moderate level of care an assisted living facility or nursing home is a more cost effective option.
How Much Do Virtual Retirement Communities Cost?
The cost of membership in a virtual retirement community is extremely low in comparison to all other forms of senior housing.
- On average, virtual retirement community membership costs $450 annually for individuals and $600 annually for couples.
That is the cheapest form of senior living that is currently available. However, there is something to note about this price tag.
You must factor in how much it costs to live in your home. Traditional retirement communities include the cost of senior housing facilities in with the price tag, which is why these are so much more expensive. So even if you are living in a house that is completely paid for, you are still responsible for homeowner's insurance, property taxes, maintenance, repairs, and utilities.
Consider the costs of these when deciding whether virtual retirement communities are the most affordable option for senior care. You may find it is cheaper to live in a traditional retirement community, such as an active senior apartment when factoring the overall cost of living in your situation.
In addition, if you require medical care or memory care, then it is cost prohibitive to try to stay in your home. In that case, a traditional retirement community, such as a nursing home or dementia care center, is your optimal choice.
How Do I Pay for a Virtual Retirement Community?
As virtual retirement communities are quite affordable for the annual membership fee, most seniors will be able to cover this expense. Note that Medicare and Medicaid do not offer coverage for virtual retirement communities.
If you are unable to pay the fee, you may be able to find a local organization to help pay for this service, such as a senior center or religious organization. Another option for active seniors may be to exchange volunteer hours in return for a discount on the annual membership fee. Check with the local virtual retirement communities in your area for more information.
Where Can I Find Virtual Retirement Communities?
One of the best resources for finding virtual retirement communities is the Village to Village Network. You can “Find a Village,” which allows you to search for virtual retirement communities according to city, state, or name. Otherwise, check your local newspaper, social groups, and online networks to see if there is a virtual retirement community group near you.