Thousands of groups of senior citizens around the country are somewhere in the process of developing what have come to be called “villages” — networks of like-minded seniors who join together in neighborhood-centric groups to benefit from shopping discounts, social activities, transportation, home repairs, and a variety of volunteered support activities.
Even five years ago, the Internet had not evolved to the point where such networking could be so easy to provide. But today, the village movement is a textbook example of how technology can help older Americans improve the quality of their lives, remain in their homes as they age, and possibly save a bundle of money in the process. And with the government facing enormous deficits for the foreseeable future, villages also represent a welcome, cost-effective way for citizens to take responsibility for themselves during an era of declining public resources.”
“How to Build Your Own Retirement Village”
It works like this: Members pay an annual fee (the average is about $600) in return for services such as transportation, yard work, and bookkeeping. The village itself usually has only one or two paid employees, and most do not provide services directly. Instead, the village serves as a liaison — some even use the word concierge. The help comes from other able-bodied village members, younger neighbors, or youth groups doing community service. Villages also provide lists of approved home maintenance contractors, many of whom offer discounts to members. By relying on this mix of paid and volunteer help, members hope to cobble together a menu of assistance similar to what they would receive at a retirement community, but without uprooting their household.
“Villages Help Neighbors Age at Home,” NPR 2010
Villages come in many shapes and sizes, but there are three basic models. One, pioneered by the “Community Without Walls in Princeton, N.J. is an all-volunteer group, with modest dues. Beacon Hill Village in Boston relies on a professional staff, provides concierge services to link members with vendors (for services from home health aides to plumbers), and charges more substantial annual fees. The third model, created by the Maryland non-profit Partners In Care, is based on the concept of time-banking. In this design, members receive credits for their volunteer time which they, in turn, can exchange for the help of other volunteers.
Different models may work in different communities. But the key to the success of the village movement will come from their bottom-up, community-based nature: Local people pulling together to help one another as they age. It is a powerful concept with a promising future–both for elders and for adult children caring for our parents.
“Villages: A Key Piece to the Aging in Place Puzzle”
The Village Concept encourages and supports seniors to “age in place” — to remain at home in familiar inter-generational neighborhoods while maintaining their independence, activities and social lives. In addition, this program promotes a stronger, more vital community because it unites residents through volunteerism, neighborly acts and working together for the common goal of improving relationships within a community.
“Aging in Place ‘Village Concept’ Offers Seniors a Chance to
Stay in Their Homes,” February 2011