The "Village" concept originated as a grassroots effort in Boston’s Beacon Hill in 2001 when a group of neighbors came together to develop services that would enable older adults to remain in their home and community. The resulting "village" notion has since been replicated around the country, with over 100 active or developing communities.
AARP reports that 90% of older adults want to remain in their home as they grow older. With the geographic dispersal of families and with older adults wishing to keep from burdening their families, growing older at home has become more of a challenge. "People end up moving because they can't change the light bulbs or (they) get isolated when they get home from the hospital and can't coordinate everything," Judy Willett, director of Beacon Hill Village commented. "Villages" present a solution by connecting members with the services and resources they need to live a comfortable, safe and healthy life at home.
Many "villages" are a neighbor-helping-neighbor system in that they rely on volunteers to provide services at no additional cost to the members. When volunteers are not able to provide services, "villages" refer members to vetted and often discounted vendors.
The "village" allows people to live how they want to live – in the comfort of their own home surrounded by their neighbors, friends and community.
In Los Angeles, WISE & Healthy Aging has taken a leadership role in working with residents of various Westside communities to form "villages" – WISE Connections.
To read more about the "village" movement, check out the following resources:
- Growing Older in an Urban Village, New York Times, August 2011
- Senior Villages Take Root as Movement Matures, US News & World Report, January 2011
- 'Villages' Help Neighbors Age At Home, NPR, August 2010
- 'Villages' Let Elderly Grow Old at Home, USA Today, July 2010
- The Village: A Growing Option for Aging in Place, AARP, March 2010
- Village to Village Network
Below is a map showing the locations of active and developing "villages" around the Nation.
Between 2006 and 2030, the U.S. population of adults aged 65 and over will nearly double from 37 million to 71.5 million. This demographic trend presents major challenges for meeting the needs of the older population who overwhelmingly prefer to receive services and supports within their homes or communities.
~ AARP, Mar 2010
More than 50 villages in a neighbor-helping-neighbor system have sprouted in the past decade. They are run largely by volunteers and funded by grants and membership fees to provide services from transportation and grocery delivery to home repairs and dog walking.
"We have a third of our volunteers who are 30 and younger," Kohn says, "and they very much like playing Wii with our members, which helps the members with balance." The village even sponsors a monthly balance class in the basement of the local library. The aim is to help prevent a dangerous spill in the shower or a tumble down the stairs.