It takes a village

The statistics are staggering. The U.S population age 65 and older presently exceeds 35 million, with that number expected to more than double by 2030. This begs the question, “How best to house these swelling ranks of older adults?” With the majority of individuals rejecting retirement communities, in place of remaining at home, an exciting alternative has arisen to meet their needs.

It takes a village

“The Village Movement”, a grassroots concept that promotes aging in place and in the community, began in the Beacon Hill area of Boston in 2001. Reinventing the concept of the village has inspired the evolution of like-minded communities nationwide. With 55 Villages currently operating and at least 600 more in the planning stages, we are seeing a trend that will help define the future in housing as it relates to aging. In an organized effort based on membership, neighbors can connect, new friendships form, active lifestyles continue and people are empowered while remaining civically engaged.

How it works

To date, most Villages have formed in urban or large suburban areas. Village membership numbers anywhere from 100 to 600 individuals and members range in age from the 50’s to the 90’s. Paying annual dues ranging from $300 to $1500 dollars per household entitles them to a wide range of discounted services. The most commonly requested are for transportation, technological help, home repairs, in home medical care, and help with household chores, but just about any request can be fulfilled, day or night. Members have only to call one number for the services they require. A small staff and volunteers coordinate and provide vetted, affordable services.

Connected through the community

Partnering with existing organizations within the community provides numerous opportunities for members to socialize, attend cultural events, and access health and wellness programs. In some Villages, opportunities exist where older adults can make inter-generational connections through youth-mentoring programs.

Help for caregivers

Caregivers near and far can rest assured that the Village is there to help if and when the need arises. For adult children of aging parents, knowing that supplemental help is just a phone call away offers them much appreciated peace of mind. Some villages are even staffed in part with social workers that will help manage healthcare needs, such as arranging the transition home from a hospital stay or setting up temporary homecare services.

The future

While Villages have not yet formed in rural areas, or low income urban neighborhoods, it is hopeful that they will. The advantages of living in a Village are certainly attractive, and contribute to a healthy model for aging with a focus on independence, dignity, and community participation. The cost/benefit advantage is clear.  Besides, what could be nicer than growing old in the home that you know and love?
Special thanks to Bridget Murtha, Chicago Bridge Blog Editor.  And, thanks Johnnysam for sharing your picture with us.

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Susan Ifergan is presently a candidate for the Masters in Gerontological Counseling Program at The Adler School of Professional Psychology. Concurrent with her academic training, she works with older adults at The White Crane Health and Wellness Center, as part of a Community Service Practicum. She is also certified as a Chronic Disease Self-Management Program Leader, where she helps teach older adults how to best deal with chronic conditions on both a physical and emotional level. She has also worked in the field of Art, Interior design and Architecture and has an interest in housing as it relates to an aging population.

5 Comments

  • Eric Parker

    Great article. I just recently found out about the North Shore Village and have gotten involved. They are a really good idea.

  • Susan Ifergan

    Eric, I am glad to hear you have connected with the North Shore Village. In Chicago we have the Lincoln Park Village and the Lake View Village. They are nowin collaboration and have formed a network. There are two more Villages being developed for Streeterville and Hyde Park.
    I know that Mather Life-Ways Institute is partnered with the North Shore Village. Mather is a great organization!

  • Arlene Wanetick

    Great article, Susan. I have heard of this concept and find it very encouraging. I too am excited to see the changes we will be witnessing as the population swell forces new and better solutions. We need lots more of them. This is a good beginning.

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