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:
Recreation and Social Events
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