Why Villages? Why Now?

According to the Greater Portland Pulse, there were over 190,000 people aged 65 and older living in the Portland metro area as of the 2010 census. By 2030, that number is expected to grow to almost 395,000.

Chana Andler, Executive Director, Villages NW

Chana Andler,
Executive Director, Villages NW

That’s a lot of people. So many in fact that even if they all wanted to move into retirement facilities, there is no way they could do so. There simply aren’t enough facilities in existence or being built to accommodate that many people. Not to mention that a huge percentage of this population—current estimates suggest up to 75%—don’t have enough retirement savings to be able to afford the $3000+ per month it would cost.

Fortunately, it’s not where most of us want to end up.

According to a recent survey by AARP, 89% of older adults want to age in their own homes and neighborhoods. This is particularly true of the Boomers who have visited their parents and grandparents in the senior ghettos that were created to warehouse them during their golden years. It’s not the vision of aging they have for themselves.

For most Boomers—-indeed, for most older adults—-their vision of aging is one of aging-in-place. Of growing old, if not in the home they have lived in for 40 years, at least in the neighborhood and community they know and love.

Fortunately, their desire to age-in-place turns out to be a very good thing—good for them and good for society. Aging-in-place has been found to improve seniors’ overall health, life satisfaction and self-esteem. It improves both their longevity and their quality of life.

Aging-in-place is also cost-effective. As reported in The Fiscal Times in 2010: “The median monthly cost for nursing home care in 2009 was $5,243 — more than five times that for seniors living at home.” And according to the National Aging in Place Council, “In 2008, the average cost of a home health aide for a single person was $19 per hour. Assisted-living facilities fees were about $3,008 per month.”

Contrast this to the cost of a Village annual membership—which even in the most expensive urban areas tops out at a maximum of $1000 per year and in most cases is considerably less—and it’s not difficult to see why a recent national report concluded, “Solutions that help seniors age in place are considerably cheaper than the alternatives, and will actually save seniors and taxpayers money by making transportation and services more efficient, while lowering overall healthcare expenditures.” [1]

However, the value of Villages—for their members and for society—does not stop there.

By being focused on building authentic community and relationships between members, Villages dramatically reduce isolation. This can be particularly significant after the loss of a spouse when Village membership helps provide continuity, connection and an ongoing network of support.

Villages are efficient. They do not duplicate services. Instead, they help members make full use of existing community resources and then, fill in the gaps with services from the Village.

Villages are a solution that can work for the middle class and lower middle class, as well as for people with significant means. By making it possible for seniors to get the support they need to age-in-place for as little as $10-15 per week, villages help conserve their (limited) financial resources and help prevent–or at least slow—them from sliding downward into poverty.

Villages help restore purpose and meaning to people’s lives, giving members and volunteers important work to do and finding meaningful ways for each to contribute regardless of age.

Grassroots villages give agency and control back to the seniors themselves. In a Village they are members, stakeholders and decision-makers. They are not patients or clients or customers.

Unlike most approaches to aging, Villages are not age-segregated. Village members continue to live in their own neighborhoods surrounded by and interacting with people of all ages. Additionally, the Village draws its volunteers not just from its members, but from the broader community, which further nurtures intergenerational interaction and relationship.

Villages dramatically reduce the burden on adult children of aging parents by providing the parents with an alternative system of support, which is reliable, affordable and appealing.

For Boomers, Villages provide a way to both “pay it forward” and to craft the kind of retirement support system they want to have for themselves when the time comes.

Villages are an empowerment model. They do not ask “What is someone going to do to help me?” They ask “What can all of us working together do to help each other?”

As a member of the first Village (Beacon Hill Village in Boston) so eloquently put it, “Warehousing elderly people, whether in beautiful rural settings or in urban towers, not only consigns them to a life of isolation and inactivity, but also bankrupts the community they came from. If we can stay in our own communities as we age, everyone gains.”

We couldn’t agree more.

It will take multiple grassroots Villages to serve the growing senior population of the Portland metro-area alone, and the average development time for a Village is 3-5 years. Every single day nationwide another 10,000 Baby Boomers reach the age of 65. There’s literally no time to waste.

Chana Andler
Executive Director, Villages NW
http://www.VillagesNW.org
May 2013

________________________________
[1] from Aging in Place: A State Survey of Liveability Policies and Practices, developed by AARP and the National Council of State Legislatures.

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Planning Group Organization: Take Two

In my last post, If at First You Don’t Succeed, Figure Out Why, I concluded with the statement:  “We have also discarded our committee structure and re-divided our work into projects and ongoing activities, which gives volunteers much more control over what they do and how public they need to be.  I’ll share detailed information about our new organizational structure in my next blog post.”

Since this is that next blog post, it should be fairly obvious what it’s about—namely, the new organizational structure we’re trying with the Eastside Village PDX Planning Group. Our hope is that it will be easier to manage, more productive and give volunteers—especially those who are introverted—more specific ways to contribute that are tailored to their skills and temperaments.  So far, it’s gotten excellent reviews from the group, but it’s early days yet.

The logic behind the re-organization is that almost everything that needs to be done is either part of a project or its an ongoing activity.  What characterizes a PROJECT is that it is of limited duration and it has a beginning, middle and an end. So, for example, here are some of the current projects being worked on by Eastside Village PDX volunteers:

  • Designing, distributing and analyzing a Community Needs Assessment Survey
  • Our June 15th “It Takes a Village” event with AARP Oregon
  • Our August 2013 Rock’n’Roll Fundraiser
  • Tabling at Summer 2013 street fairs & other community events
  • Writing the business plan
  • Drafting the projected operational budget

Each of these projects has a beginning, middle and end. And although there may be many steps involved to execute each, once they are done, they’re done. Some will probably never happen again (like the community survey or the June 15th event).  Others will not be revisited until the following year or later (like summer tabling or writing the budget) and may involve a totally different team of people when that happens.

With projects, people work on them, then move to the next, where they have the opportunity to try on different roles if they like. Each project has its own timeline & project leader.  With many of the projects, there are going to be small roles to fill (like just showing up to help with day of event set-up) and large roles to fill (like being the point person for the project and coordinating it from start to finish). And though some of these projects may take considerable time to complete—like the survey project—it’s not an indefinite commitment.

The other side of the coin is what we are calling ONGOING ACTIVITIES.  These are tasks that are repeating, long-term, and operational—like entering the names of the people who attend Village 101 presentations into the database or updating the website or doing the bookkeeping and reporting on it each month to the planning group. And though an individual person may only do an activity for a finite period of time, once he or she leaves a replacement must be found, since the activity needs to go on.

Some activities take place behind the scenes, like writing grant reports or maintaining the Facebook page.  Others, like researching other Villages and interviewing their founders, require a mix of behind the scenes and outreach work. And the people who volunteer to solicit business sponsors have to be very comfortable with being out in public and making a persuasive case for support.

After listing all the activities, we discovered that they could be loosely grouped by focus or function. For example, some are marketing activities, some are financial activities,  some are research activities and so forth.  This allows us to assign someone from the coordinating team to oversee each of these  groups of activities and to work with the people doing them.

Although we describe all the people doing financial type activities as being on the “Financial Activities Team”, there will rarely be a reason for all of them to meet as a group and many of the tasks can be done solo. So if you’re the kind of person who hates going to meetings, one of these may be perfect for you. On the other hand, if you like working in a small group, being part of a team that plans social activities may be just the ticket.  Different strokes for different folks, and lots of options to choose from.

So here are the ongoing activities we have come up with so far:

Research Activities Team (members work independently on research assignments)

  • Researching other villages
  • Researching existing resources in the Village’s service area & creating database entries

 Programming Activities Team (members work primarily in small groups)

  • Planning social activities
  • Planning educational programs

 Financial Activities Team (some members work independently on discrete, assigned tasks; others work in small groups)

  • Donor recordkeeping & gift processing
  • Bookkeeping—income & expenses
  • Monthly & annual financial reporting
  • Managing transactions with fiscal sponsor
  • Grant research, writing, tracking & reporting
  • Preparing budgets for grant applications and funders
  • Planning fundraising campaigns/activities in order to finance start-up expenses and build reserve pre-launch
  • Designing supporters program & soliciting business supporters
  • Soliciting underwriters for fundraising events

 Volunteer Coordination Activities Team (members primarily work independently on discrete, assigned tasks)

  • Tracking volunteers’ hours
  • Posting volunteer opportunities on Volunteer Match
  • Inviting interested volunteers to planning group meetings
  • Ongoing recruiting of non-service-delivery volunteers, finding their niche(s), & integrating them into the group
  • Following up with Village 101 presentation attendees post-presentation to identify their skills & interests
  • Recruiting volunteers for specific activities or projects
  • Developing list of volunteer opportunities for posting on website and including in newsletters & social media

 Marketing Activities Team (members primarily work independently on discrete, assigned tasks)

  • Data entry into Insightly —mailing list, email list, team members list, volunteer lists, other lists
  • Setting up & maintaining info distribution channel to neighborhood associations
  • Setting up & maintaining info distribution channel to fraternal organizations
  • Setting up & maintaining info distribution channel to other NPOs in our service area
  • Setting up & maintaining info distribution channel to key government agencies/ representatives (local, state and federal)
  • Ongoing social media, including maintaining Facebook pages
  • Submitting online calendar listings
  • Developing & updating website
  • Collecting outreach/marketing data generated from projects and adding it to the marketing databases
  • Responding to questions, emails, phone calls
  • Designing & producing flyers & other collaterals
  • Writing & producing e-newsletter
  • Writing & sending press releases
  • Adding to and updating press lists (print and online)
  • PR: Getting media coverage for Village events
  • Researching & arranging community event co-sponsorships
  • Setting up & maintaining info distribution channel to business associations
  • Getting info from survey team. Adding on to & maintaining info distribution channel to faith-based organizations
  • Coordinating Village 101 presentations: Reserving sites, booking speakers, & promoting the presentations
  • Speakers Bureau: Delivering informational presentations; doing interviews, PR appearances

 Coordinating Activities Team (leadership tasks. Members function as a team with delegated responsibilities)

  • Maintaining the master timeline, which shows how all projects integrate over the next 6+. Collecting this info from project leaders. Helping project managers set up their timelines
  • Tracking the work activities of the different teams and assisting as needed
  • Tracking the progress of projects and assisting as needed
  • Hosting & organizing monthly planning group meeting
  • Responding to unexpected turns-of-events & plugging holes as needed
  • Maintaining relationship with the Village-to-Village Network
  • Outreach to leadership of key PDX organizations & negotiating relationships
  • Prioritizing and sequencing projects and determining how many can be in play at any one time
  • Knowing what needs to be decided next by the planning group and bringing it to a vote/ decision
  • Knowing what needs to be started next & bringing it to the planning group’s attention
  • Compiling & sending out monthly planning group agendas

As you can see, some of these activities are absolutely necessary.  They need to happen for work to progress. An example of this would be maintaining our mailing list, email list, team members list, volunteer lists, etc. Others would be “helpful to have” but we can get by until we get someone to take it on. For example, setting up an information  distribution channel to the local business associations.

As I said before, this is a new system so we don’t yet know how well it will turn out in the long-run. So far though, being able to “chunk” tasks into discrete pieces and match them to volunteers’ skills and preferences is working out for us. The person who tracks the volunteer hours does not have to be the same person who follows up with people who have been to Village 101 presentations to get their reactions and try to get them involved. Both are important, but require different skills and take different amounts of time to accomplish.

I truly believe that it takes a village to build a Village. But I guess, like in a real village, everyone doesn’t have the same job.  Figuring out the right niche for people is a critical part of Village development and of ongoing Village operations.  So, well worth the effort it takes to learn how to do it 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.

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.

First “Parlor Meetings” for Village PDX Scheduled

According to the founders of the other Villages we have spoken to, the first step to getting a Village going is begin holding parlor meetings and bringing together potential founders and stakeholders.

To that end, anyone who thinks they may be interested in helping get a village going in their neighborhood (no matter where in the Portland metro-area) is invited to attend one of the first VillagePDX parlor meetings on either Thursday, April 12 at 7:00pm or Sunday, April 15 at 3:00pm at our home is SE Portland. To RSVP, get directions, or for additional info, please send an email to info@villagepdx.org.

Looking forward to seeing many of you at a meeting and getting this project going!

Chana and Richie Andler