What is a Village? Part 1
Loneliness and Premature Death of Elders

What is a Village? Part 2

[Part 1 of What is a Village? is here. It would be helpful to read that first.]

One of the reasons it took me so many years to come around to the Villages idea is that for a long time, it was mostly an urban phenomenon – relatively small, square or rectangular spaces of contiguous city blocks.

It seemed to me to be nigh impossible to forge a cohesive group within the farflung homes of suburbia.

That turned out to be wrong and according to that Rutgers study I mentioned yesterday (link below) there are an equal number of urban and suburban Villages (39.9 percent each). And get this: 15.9 percent serve primarily rural areas.

Wherever they are located, each Village's organization and management are guided by their Vision, Mission and Values statement that is usually crafted by the founding members.

These tend to support such principles as recognizing mutual interdependence, embracing diversity, honoring the privacy and dignity of individuals, transparent decision-making and reflect local sensibilities.

Villages are all about what we can do for one another trading on our individual interests, capabilities and willingness to care. No one else is going to do this for us.

Here are some crucial points about growing old in America now: there are currently about 42 million people 65 and older. By 2030, just 16 years from now, there will be about 72 million people in that age group and already there are not enough caregivers to go around.

Also, there are no ideas regarding what to do about that shortfall. There are no plans for enough care facilities. Few old people can afford the steep prices of continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) – those in which a resident can move from independent living to assisted living to nursing care as the necessity arises.

In fact, no institution or government – not local, state or federal - has put forth any useful ideas about how to cope with the growth of the elder population.

So it is up to us - you and me - to take care of ourselves and our neighbors, and Villages are the best idea I have found – people helping people.

Besides my own self-interest of wanting to have a Village in place by the time I am in need of its services, it is a wonderful opportunity to help create an organization that will be already in place when the generations behind us come along.

By then, if we start now, our Villages will be mature, the kinks worked out and we will know that we did something extraordinary in our old age – a legacy, if you will indulge a pun, for the ages.

What I've told you about Villages today and yesterday does not begin to cover it all and I haven't even mentioned the hard work needed from many people over three years or more to get a Village ready to launch.

If you think it is worthwhile and you would like to be part of a valuable, growing movement, here is some information that will help you get involved.

There is a national organization called Village to Village Network where you can find out if there is a Village – established or starting out – in your area. The map and search page is here.

If a Village near you is fully operational, you can join and you can also become a volunteer.

If a Village near you is just getting organized, offer to help. In addition to the accomplishment, it's a great way to meet new people.

If there is no Village near you yet, you can do what I did – gather together some willing and interested neighbors – it doesn't need to be a whole of lot of them in the beginning - and start your own Village.

This is a 2012 video, a short TEDtalk from Judy Willetts that goes beyond the nuts and bolts I've talked about in these two days of posts. Her talk is titled, It Takes a Village.

Here are some links from yesterday's post and some additional ones where you can learn more about the Villages movement:

Beacon Hill Village, the first Village

The Rutgers study is full of useful, recent statistics about Villages [pdf]

• AARP has a general overview of Villages from a couple of years ago

• The Washington Post has a good story on the growth of Villages in the D.C. Area.

VillagesNW, in my area of Oregon, is a unique hub-and-spoke operation that makes it easier for “spoke” Villages to get started than going it alone. It's a new idea for which we have great expectations. We'll see how it goes.

If you are interested and if the members of the planning committee agree, I will post occasional stories here to keep you up to date on how "my" Village (soon to have a name) is moving forward, developing and what we are learning that might be useful to you in your area.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: Misty of Sunset Stables


One again I have learned something new from Ronni. Thank-you! I love the idea of Villages. I don't see anything in my town, but am still looking and reading as much info as I can.

Thank you, Ronni, for letting us know how to find out if there is a Village in our area.

Using your link I have found two Villages in the City but none out here where I live in the suburbs.

It is a wonderful concept and I hope someone younger than I am starts a Village near me so I can take advantage of it.

Linda and Nancy and others...
New Villages are forming in increasing numbers and many are probably not on that map yet.

You can contact nearby Villages to ask what they know about new ones nearby and, if you are able, could join in helping to develop it.

Thank-you so much for sharing all this information. As I said yesterday, It just seems like the right solution. This allows people to have help when needed while being part of the solution when they are able.Very informative pieces.

The real solution would have been to not have developed far-flung suburbs that are walking wastelands. My home town used to have everything in walking distance, the streetcar one block away and all kinds of stores. The elderly couple next door were not prisoners, they could do all their basic needs on their own. The only thing we did as kids was shovel their walk and ask them if they needed anything mailed on the way to school.

Today my old house has no streetcar and no stores in walking distance anymore either so without a car you are a prisoner in your home. That is the root cause of the coming crisis. We also have no home delivery of mail anymore in Canada, we are told that seniors need the exercise and like to get out in the dead of winter to collect parcels and such.

Younger people have smartened up and they are the ones leading the trend towards choosing a more compact walkable and sustainable lifestyle so maybe they won't end up like we surely will, dependent and isolated in our old age.

Another great job of putting it all together!!!!
Ken Pyburn, Chair Villages NW

My husband and I are committed to buying into a co-op living group. It's called "Village Co-op" BTW. There will be 50 units in the building. The Village idea looks like it would work wonderfully, with modifications, in this environment. The developers have already begun to promote new friendships with social events for those who've subscribed so that, while construction finally gets underway, the new neighbors get aquainted.

Please do keep us in the loop with progress on your Village. I expect to be involved in exploring the possibility of a similar arrangement in our Village Co-op and, possibly in the extended community in the future. The idea and the resources you've posted will be very useful.

I guess I am dense, but if the object is to allow us to stay in our homes I wonder what the boundaries would be that comprise a village. Would the homeowners have to live within a certain area to participate?

Right now I am fortunate that I live in Tucson where an active volunteer group provide drivers to medical appointments, someone to do light yard work and light housekeeping. The drivers are rarely a problem. I have only had to cancel one medical meeting because a driver could not be found. A very nice man just trimmed my bushes in my back yard and a woman will come to vacuum my carpets. The only problem with this service is that you have to call 4 days in advance to get a ride and an emergency trip would present a problem. However, there is a Handicap Van that you can use if a driver is not found and they do not require that much notification. You do have to qualify to use the Van.

According to the map there are only 2 Villages in Arizona and both are located in Tempe.

As I stated in a previous post I avail myself of "Meals On Wheels" and a friend takes me grocery shopping (although this service is also furnished by the volunteer program.)

The one thing that I do not have that a Village would provide is a social life. My world has been getting smaller with each passing year and I no longer have anyone to take me on trips or to concerts, etc. So the social aspect of the Village concept would be most welcome.

Unless I become fully dependent on others I hope to remain in my home until I leave feet first. I assume that the Village concept is only good for elders who are still able to care for themselves. Maybe I am missing something here.

Ronni, I would like updates which you offered pending approval. And I assume this might also include pitfalls or similar problems that occur along the way?

I ran across this article about what areas in Japan are doing to accommodate their older population. I was especially interested in the "Caring Relationship Tickets" which elders can redeem to receive an hour of service.

Thank you Ronni for all of your researach and help. This is a great concept and I will be watching to see how you are coming along in establishing yours. Much luck and happiness to you.

Hi Ronnie,
I am new to tgb....but have explored the Villages of Beacon Hill and the Village to
Village concept since I first learned of it in 2006! I think it is an AWESOME idea.......and that there is grant monies available for those who are serious about creating their own Village!
Keep posting all this valuable information. Makes our lives...graying as they may be......very rich and colorful!

Thank you for your post. I am quite interested in villages and hope to see one started in my neck of the woods (Eugene, OR). I have recently posted my own brief summary of the village idea on my blog (giving a link to yours). I look forward to your future posts.

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