The rapid emergence of nonprofit "neighborhood villages" allows older people to remain in their homes longer, receiving services through paid staff and volunteers. Here's how to find one, or start your own.
It may not surprise you that many older Americans don’t have the money they need to retire. Nearly one-third of people 50 and older have neither savings nor a traditional pension. Even among those who do save, many cannot put aside as much as they’ll need.
The answer: Aging in place
The savings deficit makes moving to an assisted living facility out of the question for many — maybe most –seniors, as the midrange cost for assisted living is $3,600 a month, and prices are much higher in many cities.
Fortunately, a new movement called “neighborhood villages” is starting to fill the money gap, letting older people avoid assisted living by staying put in their homes for most or all of their lives. The fact is that most of us, with money or not, would rather grow old in our own homes, AARP pollsters find. “Aging in place,” is the term often used.
Pet walking to grocery runs
Village to Village Network, a nonprofit organization that encourages neighborhood villages and helps volunteers start them, describes the movement this way:
Villages are membership-driven, grass-roots organizations that, through both volunteers and paid staff, coordinate access to affordable services including transportation, health and wellness programs, home repairs, social and educational activities, and other day-to-day needs enabling individuals to remain connected to their community throughout the aging process.
3 main purposes
Villages vary in their particulars, but they provide three main components:
- They consolidate local services and make them available through a one-call concierge phone line connecting members with the help they need to keep living in their homes. Villages may offer a list of prescreened tradespeople like handymen, electricians, carpenters and plumbers, and discounts on services that members need, such as at-home care, for example. Member volunteers may provide other things — pet walking, grocery delivery, check-in calls, home maintenance help, errands and transportation to doctor appointments, for instance.
- Villages also support members’ physical health through exercises and activities.
- They strengthen social and emotional health through clubs, activities, outings and social events that support crucial friendships, connections and community.
Costs vary, but membership fees appear to run as high as several hundred dollars per person per year.
Network of villages
So far 190 grass-roots, member-run villages are up and running across the country, the network says. Another 185 or so are in the works for a total of some 25,000 members in the United States. Villages also have popped up in Australia, The Netherlands and Canada.
This map and list let you find villages where you live. A few examples:
- Beacon Hill Village in Boston was founded in 2001 and is the model for the fast-growing movement. Annual membership: $675 for an individual, $975 for households.
- Capitol Hill Village is one of two dozen villages in Washington, D.C. Founded eight years ago, it is another pioneer village. About half of its 400 members volunteer within the village. Annual membership: $530 for an individual, $800 for households.
- Monadnack at Home, in New Hampshire, has 90 member households and serves 10 rural communities. Annual membership: $450 for an individual, $600 for households.
Villages are supported by member fees, but some villages subsidize some of their memberships for those who have trouble paying.
Start a village where you live
- See articles and tools for starting a village at Village to Village Network. Membership, including videos, documents, articles, forums, mentoring, document templates, funding sources and use of the network site, is $375 a year. Groups exploring the concept can join for $100 for six months.
- Search the National Aging in Place Council’s directory of local service providers.
- Watch Judy Willett, former director of Village to Village Network, describe the movement’s origins in a TEDx Talk video.