You or your parent is getting older. Things are not as easy to take care of as they used to be. The sink they used to be able to fix is harder to handle. You worry that a plumber, a contractor or scam artist might take advantage of them. It’s not as easy for them to drive, to get to the grocery store. You worry they may not be eating well. You are concerned that they might not be able to get to their doctor’s appointment. What if they fall and no one knows? Should they move to an assisted living facility? Perhaps not. Not if they are basically of sound mind. Especially when the vast majority of seniors would rather remain in their homes as they age.
So what should you do? One solution for many seniors are “Villages.” What are Villages? Well, there are a lot of definitions, but when speaking of seniors, we’re taking about creating a virtual retirement community (Villages) of sorts in which everyone shares their skills and abilities to help for mutual benefit of everyone and providing other needed services through low cost membership fees when required.
Most “Villages” are membership driven, self-governing, non-profit organizations designed to share help and assistance. Some “Villages” may have by small part time staffs working with volunteers to coordinate and provide affordable services, including transportation, in-home medical care, home repairs and other day-to-day needs for people wishing to remain in their home and community — all for a fee much more affordable than outside in-home health retail services, assisted living or nursing home care. All Villages are neighborhood based.
The first “Villages” program was established in 1992 by Community Without Walls in Princeton, N.J.. Today, this “Village” has more than 450 members who belong to one of six “houses.” Annual dues are $30 for a couple. Much of what it does is social: There is a bird-watching club and a theater group. There are also needed services, like rides to the doctor or the store, and these are provided for by volunteers. For those who need a higher level of assistance, this Village arranged for a local nonprofit to coordinate care and provide access thru a 24-hour emergency hotline. Singles pay $300 annually and couples pay $350, plus fees for any Village services they require, such as a home health aide.
A second type of Village is based on Boston’s Beacon Hill Village, which also started in the 1990s. The Beacon Hill Village charges annual dues and delivers both volunteer and paid help to its members. In Washington, the Capitol Hill Village which has about 200 members, is probably the best example of this model. It began providing services about three years ago and has about 200 members who generally pay annual dues of $530 for individuals and $800 for households; about 30 low-income members pay less.
A third type of Village, championed by a nonprofit, Partners in Care in Maryland — is based on time banking, or service exchange. This Village model? A peer to peer network. For example, you agree to pick up groceries for a neighbor and, in return, another volunteer fixes your leaky faucet. Begun in 1993, Partners in Care now has has 2,600 volunteers in the Annapolis and Frederick areas, as well as in Easton, Md., and Baltimore.
No one knows exactly how many Villages there are today throughout the United States providing assistance to older Americans. But we do know Villages are providing an affordable option for those aged 50 and older, allowing them to stay in their own homes and remain active, independent and engaged in their communities.