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Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: Clearfield County AAA, Inc.

Learn how this Pennsylvania AAA developed an innovative housing solution for older adults in the community, allowing them to live independently and have a better quality of life near family members at a more affordable cost.

We're proud to highlight the award-winning work of the 2020 winners of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week, we are focusing on Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging, Inc.'s Elder Cottage Housing Opportunity (ECHO) program. The agency was a 2020 Aging Innovations Award winner in the Housing category.
 
Aging at home brings with it many benefits—both to older adults and the communities in which they live. The Elder Cottage Housing Opportunity (ECHO) enables older adults to live independently, age in place with dignity and maintain an enhanced quality of life by residing in manufactured cottages with affordable rent. The 600-square-foot accessible units can be placed on the property of a family member and include a large bedroom, a living and dining area and a wheelchair-accessible bathroom and kitchen.
 
“This program presents a housing option for older adults and shows that we can change the future of aging by providing an affordable solution for older adults to age in place the way they want to,” said Bobbie McBurney-Johnson, Director of Mission Advancement/PR at Clearfield County AAA.
 
ECHO cottages provide safety and autonomy for older adults, reduce stress on family caregivers and preserve family connections. The cottages are a more cost-effective option than nursing home placement and provide an alternative for families.
 
One participant of the program transitioned from living in a high-rise senior housing apartment to be closer to his family and because he was not accustomed to living alone. Since moving to an ECHO cottage, he has been able to discontinue the use of anxiety medications and focus on staying healthy and active. “Seeing family members happy and their loved ones' thriving in an environment of their choice is extremely rewarding,” McBurney-Johnson added.
 
The appeal of the ECHO program has only grown as older adults have experienced devastating outcomes while living in group settings, particularly nursing homes, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ECHO program has allowed older adults to continue living in their communities, experience better health outcomes and continue vital interaction with loved ones during this time.
 
Replication of this program requires partnering with a manufactured home company to design an appropriate, movable home; seeking grant funding to offset costs; and identifying eligible older adults with a target age and income level. Host families must agree to placement of the cottage on their property. Municipal guidelines such as zoning codes must be followed.
 
Read more about Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging, Inc.'s Elder Cottage Housing Opportunity (ECHO) program in Gant News (Clearfield, PA) and Connect Radio FM (Dubois, PA). Questions? Contact Kathleen Gillespie, kgillespie@ccaaa.net.
 
For more information about the 2020 winners, see the press release and read the book of winners! To read about past winners and find other best practices for your agency to consider, visit our Best Practices page.

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