It Takes a Village: The Village Movement for Aging at Home

The Village Movement, sometimes called Staying Put or Aging in Community is a grassroots social movement reshaping and changing the thumbprint for senior living.  The goal is to help elders who so desire, to remain in their homes as they grow into their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. The simple idea behind this concept is to create self-governing, community based organizations within already established communities to provide the necessary resources and people to make this possible. 

This new concept for adult living is so important because the population of senior citizens is the fastest growing demographic worldwide.  There are now more Americans 65 and older than at any other time in history.  Currently, there are approximately 40 million people over 65 (2010 Census) and by 2030 it is estimated that that number will increase to over 70 million.  2040 will see that 40 million doubled to 80 million.  Currently,1 in 8 Americans is over 65.  By 2030, that will change to 1 in 4. The cost of senior living options and health care are becoming increasingly prohibitive and the simple truth is that 88% of people 65 and older want to remain in their homes for as long as possible.  Staying Put, Aging in Community and creating Villages is not only what seniors want, it is far less expensive for those who do not need comprehensive assistance.  It is a cost effective solution to maintaining independent and quality of life choices for those who can and want to remain in their own homes. 

This new concept in senior living was born In 2001 when a group of neighbors in the Beacon Hill area of Boston got together to discuss how to remain in their homes in their beloved community rather than have to move to retirement or assisted living environments.  And since then, this concept has taken off.  Today, there are 120 urban, suburban and rural Villages in the US, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. There are 100 more in development.  As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” And these trailblazers are doing just this.

So what exactly is this Village?  Each Village is unique unto itself. The overriding principle is to help seniors remain in their homes with as much independence as possible by building a network of local support and services within the community.   Villages are localized and grassroots driven.  Memberships are required to support the services and yearly fees can range from $50 – $1000 per year. They are run by volunteers and salaried staff whose responsibility is to coordinate access to affordable services. Some of the services may be free.  Others may be eligible for negotiated discounts with authorized participating local merchants and businesses. Each Village is designed around the needs of the individual community and may include all aspects of life:  social needs, intellectual stimulation, physical well being. personal care and home maintenance.  Here are some examples of the services provided:

Transportation

Grocery shopping & delivery

House cleaning

House repair & home maintenance

Home health and personal care

Legal Assistance

Financial services

Health education

Mental health

Social work

Exercise groups

Organized cultural events

Current events discussion groups

The Village Movement is a wonderful example of how todays elders are changing the paradigm of how and where one gets to grow old. Want to get involved?  Want to get your community involved?  Want to start your own village?  I do……..Here are some resources…….

The Village to Village Network.

Beacon Hill Village

Brian Williams interview with his in-laws who live in a Village community……

By  Roberta Teller