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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

What is a Village? Part 1

For five or six years now, I have been tracking what is known as “the Villages movement” in the United States and since last summer, I have been deeply involved as a founding member of a nascent Village in the area where I live.

In this 21st century context, Villages are not to be confused with, for example, small towns or with retirement communities like the large one in Florida that is actually named The Villages.

Villages I'm talking about are individual grassroots organizations of like-minded people within a prescribed geographical area who want to combine their knowledge, resources and efforts to help themselves and one another age in their homes for as long as possible.

The movement began about 13 or 14 years ago when a group of friends who lived in the Beacon Hill area of Boston got together to talk about how they could remain in the neighborhood and homes they loved even as they grew old and in need of various kinds of support.

As the Beacon Hill Village website explains:

”We looked beyond conventional solutions. We wanted more freedom and control than we found in models that focus on single issues, such as housing, medical care, or social activities.

“We wanted to be active, taking care of ourselves and each other rather than being 'taken care of.'

“After much consideration, we developed a grassroots membership organization. We, the members, decide what we need and want.

“We have an expert staff, a great variety of service providers, enthusiastic volunteers, and strategic partners, but we govern the Village, design its offerings, and make it all happen.

“We are self-supporting, funded by membership fees and donations; we are self-governing as a secular, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.”

Beacon Hill Village signed up its first member in 2002 – it now has about 400 members - and is the most mature and successful of the growing number of Villages.

There are currently more that 120 Villages throughout the United States, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands with another 100 or so in various stages of development - from soon-to-launch to just getting started like “my” Village. They have such names as High Desert Village and At Home Downeast, Village by the Shore, Safe at Home and Elder Help of San Diego.

Recently, anchor Brian Williams explained on NBC Nightly News what Villages are when he reported on Staying Put, a Village in Connecticut of which his mother- and father-in-law are founding members. Take a look:

All Villages are self-governing. Members decide how they function, what services they offer and how they do it.

Some have one or more paid employees. Usually, however, services are provided mostly with a combination of member and non-member volunteers, partnerships with local organizations and with preferred providers that, having been vetted by the Villages, often discount their services to members.

The types of services offered are limited only by imagination and the ingenuity to provide them. Some of the most common are:

Transportation
Grocery shopping
Technology assistance
Housekeeping
Legal services
Recreation and Social Events
Friendly visits
Handyman services
Exercise groups
Financial services
Home health care
Home personal care
Lawn mowing and yard work

Villages strive to become one-stop-shops for what their members need to remain in their homes at an affordable cost for as long as possible as they get older.

According to a recent survey of 69 Villages led by Rutgers School of Social Work, the annual price for an individual membership ranges from $25 to $948. Household memberships cost from $50 to $1285.

Many Villages offer discounted memberships for low-income neighbors within the Village boundaries and in some cases – probably growing numbers – adult children who live far away are purchasing memberships for their parents.

You will find Part 2 here.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Janet Thompson: Lemon Juice, That's Yellow Alert


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

I absolutely love this concept. Thank-you so much for sharing information about it. It just seems right. What could be more natural? I am so glad that people have taken big steps to make this happen. It seems to be the only sensible way to age as comfortably and confidently as possible. Looking forward to tomorrow's story about it all.

Terrific! Sounds just like a place I have been looking for. Somewhere there has to be a community of semi-retired but still active Seniors that cooperate. I imagine a place wherein folks have combined and shared their individual knowledge and skills to confront life's challenges.

We have visited Florida's The Villages many times. At first glance they share a common existence - quite extraordinary. And it truly is an amazing sight. It seems like hundreds of couples running around all over the place in their hopped-up golf carts with smiles on their faces. But once I pack up and get ready to leave, I have this funny feeling, "this isn't going to work for me". My perception is these Seniors are like-minded lemmings and all speak and vote like Republicans. Kind of reminds me of the movies "Stepford Wives" or especially "Truman".

Ronni, I hope you can collect the names and locations of these sites - I am packing my suitcase in anticipation . .

Yellowstone...
To be clear, this Villages concept is not about "packing your suitcase" and going somewhere.

The entire point is to be able to stay in your home in the neighborhood and city (or town) where you have been for a long time and are comfortable, and to create a self-run organization to help yourself and others remain at home for as long as possible.

Oh - wait a minute, Yellowstone...
Perhaps you meant to move to a location where there is an established Village.

There is a precedent for that - at least one that I know of.

A friend of mine who, a year or two ago, was moving from Baltimore to Seattle with his family, specifically looked to buy a home in a neighborhood that has a Village. And he found one.

Thanks Ronni, a true service to those of us that have worked so hard to clarify and promote this concept nationwide. A very good summary that I hope raises our visibility even more around this country and others where you are read. You do a great job on the FAQ's already too.
Ken Pyburn, Chair Villages NW

I am so glad you clarified this concept for us, it makes so much sense. Unfortunately, it comes too late for some of us who, without support, lost almost everything.

Loved your excellent description of Villages. Over the last 2 years a group of us in Petaluma, north of SF, have been working on starting a Village. We have just rented office space, hired a wonderful part time Program Director, and expect to open later this spring. It has been a wonderful experience and I look forward to being one of our first members as a volunteer!

Watching the video, my first thought was this is just another program for wealthy people, but then saw that a neighbor who is in subsidized housing also received help. Here in Portland we have services such as Store to Door to help with shopping and Ride About to help with rides. I believe these services are subsidized so why would we need a Village, especially when it costs money?

Ronni,

I certainly wish there were a Village near me. Wait! Perhaps there is, and I just don't know about it.

I am going to start right now looking to see if our area has their own "Ronni" who brought this wonderful concept to us and I just have to make the effort to locate it.

Thanks!

Ronni, my (slightly) younger sister is currently establishing a village in Columbia, MD. I wish the both of you all the best in your efforts. The NBC piece is especially good at explaining the concept.

Sounds exactly like what I'm looking for in the greater Denver area. There are some age-restricted communities here and I'm wondering if they function like villages. Doesn't really matter, though. Homes in those communities are too expensive for me.

I hope your next post gives some advice on how to start a Village in a state without one.

Here in Pasadena, CA, there is an active Village group -- over 125 members. I know several people who have joined and are enthusiastic about it.
The downside is the membership fee which may be too high for some people. And some of the services seem to duplicate what can be found in a good senior center.

Great concept. We really don't have this here but our senior center does provide some gratis services, grocery & prescription shopping, volunteer chore service, and meals on wheels. The Transit here has a small bus that charges 75 cents for a assisted transport from home to anywhere in town for the disabled and over 70 year old population, and back again by reservation.

Add to this a variety of services offered by churches and other organization but it is tricky to find out who does what. A village concept would provide an umbrella of useful services. Sounds like it would encourage people to be more neighborly as well, as sometimes distant concept.

I remember when I first read about the Beacon Hill project and thought, "Wow!" what a great idea. I'm looking forward to reading more about the group you're working with in your town.

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