Why Did You Draw the Line THERE? The Problems with Village Boundaries

Our planning group recently sent out an email announcing the Eastside Village, PDX project and inviting people to come to a “Village 101” informational presentation to learn more about it.  One of the pieces of information included in the email was the boundaries of the area that will be served by Eastside Village, PDX.

Since the announcement went to everyone on our email list regardless of where they live, we knew that some of the people receiving it would be outside the Eastside Village boundaries.   But what we didn’t anticipate was the number of emails we would get from people living only slightly outside the boundaries wanting to know why we “drew the line” where we did.

Each of the emails pointed out that there were seniors living outside our boundaries who would benefit from Eastside Village services & support.  Each of the emails asked why we couldn’t just extend the boundaries a bit more.  And several of them pointed out how under-served their area is compared to some of the neighborhoods which are included in the Eastside Village service area.

We did our best to send back a thoughtful response to everyone who wrote.  We didn’t mention how emotionally difficult it is to set boundaries, knowing as you do that this will result in people who are inside the lines and people who are not, and that this is not a commentary on how much those on the outside  need the services or how deserving they are of having a Village in their neighborhood.  It’s about manageability—what the Village can reasonably address—-and about where the Village’s  founders happen to live.   Because whether you want to or not, in a city the size of Portland, you have to draw the lines somewhere.  The Portland metro area is too big to be served by a single village.  It would be unmanageable and ineffective.

It didn’t help, of course, that we would like to be able to help everyone and that we understand both how well considered and how relatively arbitrary the boundaries really are.  I suppose we could have said, “These are only ‘working boundaries’ so maybe we’ll decide to include your neighborhood further down the road.”  It’s not like that’s impossible.  A number of Villages across the country have expanded their boundaries to include more neighborhoods than they originally started with.  Of course, in most of those cases they started out too small and needed to expand in order to survive, which is not the case with Eastside Village, which is starting with a very large service area.  But it might happen….

What we did say instead was the following:

1. The village boundaries were set by vote of the entire planning group, after studying census numbers and considering “natural” and neighborhood boundaries.

2.  In the process of studying villages nationwide, we learned that about 10-12K seniors in an area is the right size for a urban village. So we chose an area that has that number of senior residents.

3. Grassroots villages are formed and run by people who live inside the Village’s boundaries. So, as you would expect, virtually all our planning group members live in one of the neighborhoods covered by Eastside Village, PDX and that helped determine where our boundaries fell.  For example, two of our planning group members live in the Mill Park neighborhood.  So that helped determine our Eastern boundary.  If they had lived in different neighborhoods, we would probably have settled on slightly different boundaries (while still shooting to achieve the 10-12K seniors number)

4. The street that is our south boundary is also the southern boundary for three of the neighborhoods that are part of Eastside Village, PDX.  So it is a natural ending point.  If we had extended to the next major boulevard south as you asked, we would have been able to include all of your neighborhood, but would have bisected two other neighborhoods—–who then might reasonably have asked us to extend even farther south so that all of their neighborhood would be included.

5.  In terms of need, there is as much argument to be made about the problems of cutting off a village at our eastern boundary as there is at our southern boundary, since there are many, many seniors in need living further east.  But you have to draw the boundaries somewhere.  Trying to put all of Portland’s east side into one village would be unmanageable and, in the long run, counter-productive.

6. We hope Eastside Village, PDX will be the FIRST village on Portland’s east side, but not the ONLY one. Some of us are very willing to help start a “sister” village to the south which would include your neighborhood.  But  in order to get that going  you need to find a few residents of your neighborhood (and surrounding neighborhoods) to host Village 101 informational parlor meetings.  Through those parlor meetings, you will attract a core group of people to make up your village’s founding team/planning group.  So find those people to host and we will be glad to come down, make a Village 101 presentation, and help get the ball rolling.

I don’t think what we said was unreasonable or unsympathetic.  I very much fear it wasn’t what any of the people who wrote wanted to hear.  It would have been easier if we just extended the boundaries.  It would have been easier if they didn’t have to build a planning group and mobilize their neighborhoods into action.  But since that’s precisely what every neighborhood has to do to build a Village in the first place, it’s a pretty good indicator of whether or not their area can develop and sustain a Village in the long run.

What’s in a name? When is a “Village” not a village?

Once upon a time, a village was just a small city.  Nothing fancy. Larger than a hamlet, but smaller than a town. But then the real estate developers got hold of the term and started cranking out “Tanesbourne Village” and “Village by the Sea” to refer to planned real estate developments—–many of them retirement communities. So now you can hardly say the word “village” without people thinking you’re talking about a man-made, mortar and bricks real estate project.

That not what we mean when we talk about Eastside Village PDX or the national Village movement.    In our parlance, a “Village” is not a real estate development or a retirement community.    Rather, it is a group of like-minded people living in the same geographic area who have come together to figure out and develop the resources they need to age comfortably in their own homes.

No new facility gets constructed. Village members continue to live in their own homes and can be homeowners, renters, seniors sharing housing or living with relatives.  What they all have in common is that their homes are located somewhere within the geographic boundaries/service delivery area of the Village (but rarely adjacent) and they have all chosen to join the Village in order to have a cost-effective way of being able to age-in-community.

What does get “built” is (1) a supportive and caring community and (2) a structured network of support whose purpose if to enable Village members to successfully age-in-place.  Villages do this by providing the help people need to be able to age in place, but can no longer safely do themselves.   Examples include: climbing on ladders to change a light bulb, doing yard work, driving at night, spring cleaning, simple home repairs, transportation to & assistance with grocery shopping.

The first Village—Beacon Hill Village in Boston—began a decade ago when 12 older adults joined forces to create a way for them to age at home and remain independent as long as possible.  There are now over 90 Villages nationwide with over 120 more in development.  Most Villages nationwide are organized into self-governing, nonprofit membership organizations run by a Board of Directors elected by the Village members. They support themselves by a combination of fees, grants and fundraising.

 About Village Services: 

  •  Villages tend to be “volunteer first,” which means that they preferentially uses volunteers to deliver services
  • Villages provide “one call does it all” support & problem solving for their members
  • Villages do not duplicate existing services. They make it their business to know everything being offered by other nonprofits, senior centers, government agencies, how to utilize and where there are service gaps
  • Volunteers provide most of the transportation, shopping, household chores, gardening, and light home repairs & maintenance for members.
  • Villages also build relationships and develop community through social activities including potluck dinners, book clubs, exercise/wellness activities, and educational programs.
  • Carefully chosen vendors provide professional home repairs, usually at a discounted rate of 20-50% for members
  • Carefully chosen institutional & business partners provide home health care services (when/if needed), usually at discounted rates of 20-40%

Villages are networks of support that foster successful interdependent aging in community.  They are neighbor helping neighbor. And, for the 89% of older adults who preferentially want to age in their own homes in the neighborhoods they know and love, they can be the answer to their prayers.

Deciding on Our Village’s Mission and Values

One of the tasks the Eastside Village’s planning group recently took on was to develop mission and values statements for our Village.  These tasks can be painful and exhausting, if group members insist on going round and round endlessly wordsmithing each line, or if there is a great difference of opinion in your planning group over what your purpose and values should be.

We were fortunate not to have those problems.  A small subcommittee took on the task of collecting mission and values statements from other Villages and used them to draft proposed statements for our Village.  This was accomplished by an initial face-to-face meeting followed by discussion and  revision via email.  When the subcommittee had a “first draft” they were satisfied with, it was sent out to the entire planning group–along with the mission and values statements from other Villages—so they could study the examples and draft before our next  planning group meeting.

At the planning group meeting, we discussed what worked for us in the draft and what changes and additions we thought needed to be made.  The subcommittee took the group’s input and used it to make additions and modifications.  The revised mission and values statements were then emailed out to the entire group for feedback. And after one or two final tweaks, we were done.

We were greatly assisted in this process by the group’s willingness to see these as “working” documents, which we might decide to amend or improve down the road.  Our goal was to come up with the best version we could “for now” but to remain open to the possibility that we might see things differently as we continue through the Village development process and that, if that happened, we could always revisit and change them.   This reminds me of the saying “Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good” and don’t operate as if every decision is set in stone.  It’s okay to grow and change and refine as you move forward and learn more.

So, what did we come up with as Eastside Village, PDX’s working mission and vision statements?   Here they are:

Our Mission and Values

The mission of Eastside Village, PDX is to build a strong, lasting, intergenerational community and to engage and coordinate a network of trained volunteers and high quality service providers to ensure that our members are able to age at home and in community safely, affordably, happily and healthily for as long as they choose.

Values

Eastside Village, PDX is guided by the following values:

Enabling people to age in community and do “as much for as little cost for as long as possible.” To that end, we are a “volunteer first” village that develops smart, practical cost-effective ways to address our members’ needs.

Recognizing and celebrating our mutual interdependence and our lasting commitment to each other over time.

Fostering community and building strong, caring relationships.

Appreciating the richness and diversity of our EastsideVillage, PDX neighborhoods.

Being inclusive of and welcoming to people of all ages, races, faiths, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations and gender identities, and socio-economic levels.

Treasuring the willingness of the members of our Village and the wider community to volunteer their time and expertise in support of our mission, and striving to ensure that volunteers’ work with EastsideVillage, PDX is always meaningful and appreciated.

Valuing inter-generational connections as an integral part of village life.

Honoring the privacy, dignity, and independence of our members and volunteers.

Protecting the security of our members and volunteers in dealing with vendors and service providers.

Valuing the advice and opinions of our members and regularly soliciting their feedback on village programming and volunteer & vendor services.

Fostering a climate of growth, exploration and lifelong learning in our community.

Valuing and actively seeking opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships and collaboration.

Creating a village that is owned by its members and stewarded by community-elected servant leaders.

Being transparent in our decision making and honest in all our dealings.

Being innovative and agile with our programs and services; staying abreast of new approaches and technologies; responding gracefully to changing times and evolving member needs.

Being committed to enduring and sustainable growth and the wise and prudent use of all EastsideVillage, PDX resources.

Eastside Village, PDX: It’s not a PLACE. It’s a PLAN for aging-in-place.

eastsidevillage-logo

 

 Modeled after Beacon Hill Village in Boston, Eastside Village, PDX is not a building or a real estate development or a retirement community. Rather, it is a group of like-minded people who live within the same geographic area who have come together to develop the resources they will need to age comfortably in their own homes.  There are currently over 90 of these Villages in existence—including Villages in Bend, Ashland and Seattle—with over 100 more in development across the country.

The primary purpose of Eastside Village, PDX will be to assist older adults and people with disabilities to live at home safely, affordably, happily and healthily for as long as they choose by creating a coordinated network of volunteer and reduced cost services that supports village members to “do as much for as little cost for as long as possible.”  Village membership will be open to anyone age 18 or older so that people with disabilities who aren’t yet seniors may benefit from its services and support.

The EastsideVillage, PDX service delivery area will include all or part of 13 Portland neighborhoods, and its working boundaries will be:

  • Powell Blvd on the south;
  • the WillametteRiver on the west;
  • I-84/Banfield or Halsey (east of I-205) on the north;
  • 122nd on the east (except between Stark and Division where the boundary extends out to 130th to include all of the MillPark neighborhood).

The EastsideVillage planning group hopes to file for 501c3 status by Fall 2013 and launch the Village by the Fall of 2014. Their fiscal sponsor for this project is a local nonprofit organization Health Advocacy Solutions, who will be assisting them with grant applications and processing their tax-deductible donations until they get their own 501c3.

The Eastside Village, PDX project is also enthusiastically supported by the leadership of AARP Oregon, who understand that, “The development of a supportive, interdependent community in which older adults are able to live at home safely, affordably, happily and healthily for as long as they choose  is essential for Portland’s aging population and AARP is proud to be a supporter of the village development efforts in Portland neighborhoods.”

One of the key steps to Village formation is to survey potential members and volunteers living throughout the Village’s service area in order to learn (1) what aging-in-place programs & services they would want from the Village; (2) what programs & services they are currently receiving; (3) what they are paying for the services they are currently receiving: (4) what they would be willing to volunteer their help with.

The Eastside Village programs & services committee is currently designing a comprehensive needs assessment survey (both print and online forms) to collect this information and plans to devote the month of May 2013 to surveying (launching on 5/1).

In addition to checking out the Eastside Village website (www.eastsidevillage.org), one of the best ways to learn about the Village and get involved is to attend a “Village 101” informational presentation.   Upcoming presentations are planned for:

Thursday, January 17 at 7pm: Southeast Uplift Fireside Room, 3534 SE Main Street

Wednesday, Wednesday, January 30 at 7pm: Southeast Uplift Fireside Room, 3534 SE Main Street

Sunday, February 3 at 2pm: Belmont Library Community Room, 1038 S.E. César E. Chávez

Wednesday, February 13 at 7pm: Southeast Uplift Fireside Room, 3534 SE Main Street

Sunday, February 24 at 2pm: Belmont Library Community Room, 1038 S.E. César E. Chávez

Monday, March 11 at 7pm: Southeast Uplift Fireside Room, 3534 SE Main Street

Space is limited, so please RSVP to info@eastsidevillage.org or call 503-489-8496 to reserve your place.

The EastsideVillage planning group meets approximately every 3-4 weeks and is open to anyone who wants to help build Eastside Village, PDX.  To get involved, please email Chana Andler, Coordinating Team Chair, at info@eastsidevillage.org

Baby Boomers Like Discounts – Just Not the “Senior Discount”

What’s in a name?  Well apparently, if you’re a boomer and the name is “senior,” quite a lot:

“A Hartford Courant columnist recently covered the odd phenomenon, in which Baby Boomers are torn between wanting a discount for their seniority in the population and refusing to admit to senior status:

“There is definitely a different mindset between boomers and the World War II generations and the language you use encapsulates everything,” says Jo Ann Ewing, senior services coordinator for the town [of East Hampton, CT]. “Many individuals in their 70s and 80s are fine with ‘senior’ status and senior savings, while baby boomers mostly are not.”

The solution, from a business point of view, may be a silly game of semantics. Restaurants, associations, and various businesses often replace the phrase “senior discount” with something less overtly age-based, so as not to turn off the lucrative boomer customer base. The AARP welcomes “members” (not “seniors”) starting at age 50, and all the perks are referred to as “member benefits,” not senior benefits or senior discounts. The word “senior” never pops up in the list of discounts at the boomer-specialty site StageofLife.com either.

Marketing to boomers — a generation sometimes criticized as being vain and self-involved — can be tricky business, especially when the products and services at hand are clearly intended for people struggling with the aging process. Businessweek pointed out that contractors expect that the renovating of Baby Boomers’ homes will be a huge business going forward, with boomers increasingly in need of “age-appropriate remodeling” ranging from toilet grab bars to elevators. But contractors must be very careful how they propose such projects.”

via Baby Boomers Like Discounts – Just Not the ‘Senior Discount’ | Moneyland | TIME.com.

I wish this was just a “You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to” scenario.  But I fear it is more closely related to a quote a friend sent me the other day which says: “The Boomers are going to be 100 before they admit to being 50.”

Denying we are aging and continuing to assert we have little to do with “seniors” will not serve us.  Nor will playing semantic games with labels.  Instead, we Boomers need to accept that we are growing older and decide to do it mindfully, intentionally and gracefully—-using our creativity to design the best possible environments in which to age, rather than to make believe we’ll be forever young.   If we can do that, then a Boomer by any other name—even “senior”—will be aging well.

Do you have an elderly parent that still drives? Check out these AAA resources for older drivers

Transportation is one of the most requested Village services nationwide—in particular, transportation to night events, during bad weather, and when heavy traffic or freeway driving is the only option.   What this suggests—and is confirmed by this report from AAA—is that many older adults who still drive voluntarily avoid high-risk driving situations:

“Helping to dispel the all-too-common myth that seniors are dangerous drivers, AAA’s survey  indicates that motorists age 65 and older often “self-police” their driving or avoid driving situations that put them at greater risk of a crash. In fact, 80 percent of senior drivers voluntarily avoid one or more high-risk driving situations. More than half (61 percent) of these drivers avoid driving in bad weather; 50 percent avoid night driving; 42 percent avert trips in heavy traffic and 37 percent avoid unfamiliar roads.”

Obviously, this is a good thing.  But how do you know when that’s not enough and it’s time to give up the car altogether?  Apparently AAA has some online resources and educational programs that can help with making that decision:

AAA offers helpful resources for older adults and their families—working to support them as they tackle the challenge of balancing safety and mobility. SeniorDriving.AAA.com provides convenient, online access to a wealth of interactive material and AAA’s Senior Driver Safety Expos offer a local hands-on opportunity to sample AAA’s suite of free tools and programs including:

· AAA Roadwise Review – A computer-based screening tool that allows older drivers to measure changes in their functional abilities scientifically linked to crash risk.

· CarFit – A community-based program that offers older adults the opportunity to check how well their personal vehicles “fit” them for maximum comfort and safety.

· Smart Features for Mature Drivers – A guide to help identify vehicle features that can assist drivers with the visual, physical and mental changes that are frequently encountered as they age.”

via Do you have an elderly parent that still drives? AAA just released a new report and advice that I think is worth a read…. | LinkedIn.

When the time to give up driving finally comes, I think being a member of a Village can make all the difference in how much of a hardship this turns out to be.

Why? Because, unless you’re on a major transportation line or a live in a highly walkable neighborhood with all the amenities close by, fear of losing mobility can make you hold onto the car keys longer than you should.   But if you’re a member of a Village, the Village office will not only know all the free/low-cost transportation options available and be able to help you access them, they will also have village transportation volunteers to help fill the gaps and ensure you can get where you need to go. So less stress, less hardship, less loss.

Golden Girls Go Home: A Twin Cities organization touts the affordability — and fun — of shared housing arrangements

  While searching for more information about Golden Girls homes as a housing option, I came across this article about a Minneapolis organization that helps older single/divorced/widowed women find or create affordable shared housing.  Seems like something that would benefit “women of a certain age” from coast-to-coast, and not dissimilar to what Michele Fiasca is trying to do locally with her website “Let’s Share Housing Together.”

Anyway, here is the article for you to enjoy and hopefully be inspired by:

“The ’80s TV sitcom The Golden Girls  gave Connie Skillingstad a good idea: older women who live together. Skillingstad is founder of Golden Girl Homes, a group that helps older widows, divorcees, and otherwise single women find or create alternative, affordable shared housing.

‘Golden Girls is about helping open up the options for women,’ says Skillingstad.  Formed in 2001, the Twin Cities-based nonprofit is based on the  premise that older women want, need, and deserve more diverse housing options than senior housing facilities or solitary living. For many women it is not financially feasible to purchase and maintain a house on their own, and single living may leave them feeling lonely and disconnected.

‘A lot of women are interested in living in communities,’ says Skillingstad, a 59-year-old social worker. ‘The senior housing that’s being built by developers is too expensive, and many women don’t want to live in a senior housing complex.’

The Golden Girls solution is not so much matching up potential roommates as it is helping with the logistics of shared housing. To this end, the group, which includes about 200 women whose ages range from 40 into the 80s, meets monthly to discuss everything from the legal issues of these new-style households to the practicalities of living with people other than family. They are currently working to create a list of questions that potential roommates can ask each other to gauge their compatibility.”

via Golden Girls Go Home.

Golden Girls 2.0: Shared housing as a retirement strategy

I have a sister who is two years younger than me, who got divorced in her 30’s and has never remarried.  Although she still has an occasional beau, her girl friends are the mainstay of her life—there through thick and thin.  She currently lives alone in a 3 bedroom home, but she has always said that when she retires, she wants to live in a “Golden Girls home” like the characters on the TV show of that same name.  I think it’s a great idea and apparently I’m not alone, as this article from Reuters Money explains:

“Those Golden Girls may have been on to something. Alternative living arrangements — like the group house featured in the popular 80′s sitcom — are gaining steam among retired women, affording them a higher standard of living, in-home support services and companionship while aging in place.

Want to employ that personal chef you’ve always dreamed about? What about a pool and a view of the 18th hole? With women living at least five years longer than men on average, home sharing — which is dominated by women — helps them maintain or even elevate the quality of life in retirement.

Homesharing allows participants to continue a certain kind of lifestyle that they may not be able to afford when they are out of the workforce, single or widowed. That’s really the most compelling reason to share a home, but companionship is a big draw, says Nancy Thompson, AARP spokesperson. “It’s nice to have company, to remark about something to someone, or to share your interests,” she says.

“I’ve often said I wanted to live like the Golden Girls,” says Marianne Kilkenny, home share advocate and founder of Women for Living in Community. Kilkenny, 61, shares an Ashville, North Carolina home with four other renters — two women and a married couple — ranging in age from 58 to 71. “For boomer women, we’re the first generation that has had the financial means to be able to live on our own for any length of time and are finding that it gets really old because you have to count only on yourself,” she says.

A sense of belonging and peace of mind is integral, says Kilkenny, adding shared housing has allowed her to live in a nicer home with better appliances in a swankier neighborhood. “One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night,” she says, quoting Margaret Mead. “For those of us who have been single, these are the things you don’t know you are missing.”

In 2010, there were approximately 480,000 baby boomer women living with at least one female non-relative roommate and no spouses, according to an AARP analysis of population survey data. That’s approximately 130,000 Golden-Girl type households across the country.

via Golden Girls 2.0: Shared housing as a retirement strategy | Reuters Money.

Here in Portland, if you’re a mature adult and you  want to find equally mature—and compatible—housemates,  the person to contact is Michele at Let’s Share Housing Together (www.letssharehousing.com/) who will help you make the perfect match.  And who knows? If they decide to re-make the Golden Girls, they may just come and cast you!

The new Administration for Community Living

“All Americans – including people with disabilities and seniors – should be able to live at home with the supports they need, participating in communities that value their contributions. To help meet these needs, HHS is creating a new organization, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) with the goal of increasing access to community supports and full participation, while focusing attention and resources on the unique needs of older Americans and people with disabilities.

The ACL will include the efforts and achievements of the Administration on Aging, the Office on Disability and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities in a single agency, with enhanced policy and program support for both cross-cutting initiatives and efforts focused on the unique needs of individual groups such as children with developmental disabilities, adults with physical disabilities, or seniors, including seniors with Alzheimers.”

via Home | ACL.

At first glance, the announcement of a new government agency by the Department of Health and Human Services focused specifically on enabling seniors and those with disabilities to “live at home with the supports they need” should be good news to the village movement and all those who want to age-in-place and continue to live in community.  And it may yet turn out to be, though enough details about the ACL are not available to know whether it’s going to be a real help and a potential source of funding and support for village efforts or just another set of initials in the bureaucracy.

If you know any more about the ACL than I do, please share!

Making a Village: steps along the way

We had our second parlor meeting for the VillagePDX project on Sunday.  Again, an awesome group of smart, thoughtful people showed up, full of questions, good suggestions and offers of help.

One of the offers was to help “formalize/standardize” the parlor meeting presentation I’ve been giving so other people could also present it.  I think this is a grand idea and am excited to have help developing it.   So thank you in advance!

It was requested that I put the initial steps to “Making a Village” (which were listed on the white board we use for the presentation) on this blog.  The steps are nothing you wouldn’t expect if you thought the process through and the order is flexible. But here they are:

Making a Village
(initial steps)

  • Hold informational meetings and get the word out.
  • Develop informational handouts.
  • Identify ways volunteers can help support the project and enlist their help.
  • Assemble a task force/core team that is committed to this vision and can put their energy toward its manifestation for 2-3 years.
  • Research existing villages across the country and study different village models.
  • Define the village’s geographic boundaries (may be adjusted later).
  • Identify strategic partners and make strategic partnerships.
  • Line up pro bono professional services.
  • Arrange for a fiscal sponsor and raise seed money.
  • Find a “home” and meeting places.
  • Develop a mission statement.
  • Set village goals.
  • Name the village.
  • Research and develop a community profile.
  • Design, administer and analyze a community survey/needs assessment.
  • Develop a workable model for this specific village.
  • Define the target audiences.
  • Define the scope of services.
  • Set membership fees.
  • Develop a business plan.
  • Elect a Board of Directors.
  • Establish the village as a 501(c)3 nonprofit.
  • Develop & produce promotional materials.
  • Publicize the village.
  • Recruit members and additional supporters.
  • Fundraise!!!

Lastly, if you are interested in attending one of the Village PDX parlor meetings, we still have some space in the meetings on Sunday April 22 at 3pm and Thursday May 3 at 7pm.  Just email info@villagepdx.org to reserve your place.