Clearly your parents have options. Many older adults do not have the option of selling their home and moving to another location. That is why we see a growing movement towards neighborhood and community programs for older adults which retain the intergenerational mix with an emphasis on socialization, wellness and access to services. The baby boomer trend to move to segregated communities when nearing retirement can increase societal tension when they ask for the polities they have separated themselves from for the new services they will need to remain independent.
You're correct, Bruce. My in-laws DO have options that others don't have. It's not because they're wealthy, however. They are a solidly middle class family. My mother-in-law stayed home and never worked once the children arrived; my father-in-law worked at a print shop his entire career. He saved every month, paid off their 2 bedroom 1 bath bungalow, and, in general, were frugal. Now, they have a home with no mortgage, that, even in this housing market, will give them the cash they need to pay for their retirement center apartment likely for the rest of their lives (barring any other unforseen cash needs).
I like the concept of neighborhood based programs that offer socialization and support in a variety of ways. It's pretty hard, though, if your neighborhood hasn't been organized. In my family's case, their neighbors - several of whom had lived in the neighborhood as long as the in-laws - have all died or moved out. New neighbors are busy with their own jobs and families.
I love the idea of options. I love the idea of community. I truly believe that the village is needed to support our elders as they age. The village can be neighborhood based, or it can be in a community of individuals who have pooled their resources to hire a full staff of support people - oh wait, that's exactly what a retirement community is!
I'm very interested to learn if anyone else has had success with a neighborhood-based community support network for seniors - anyone out there want to share?