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.

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