What Are Villages for Aging Residents?
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Villages, as possible solutions to long-term care, are organizations that bring together the aging residents of an existing neighborhood to share resources. The residents continue to live in their own homes in their old neighborhoods but are connected by an organization that serves their needs.
When did Villages start?
The Village Movement started in 2001 in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. Residents who were getting older but didn’t want to move got together and decided to pool resources so that they could obtain services more cheaply. They also wanted a way to connect socially.
They created an independent nonprofit organization and set membership dues that are used to leverage their buying power. They hired an executive director to respond to members’ individual requests and to develop discount agreements with external preferred service providers.
They called their new arrangements Villages to emphasize the old notion of people living in small communities helping each other and banding together to meet common needs.
There are now more than 85 Villages in the United States and more than 120 in development. Each Village is independent and develops its own services and activities. The Village to Village Network shares information with the participating members, and the website has a map with the locations of existing Villages.
In 2012 Rutgers School of Social Work conducted a national overview of Villages to find out how they’re organized, who the residents are, and what services are provided. Sixty-nine Villages responded. Most had been in existence for three years or less. Over three quarters had at least one paid staff member.
Not surprisingly, the survey found a high level (nearly 90 percent) of older adults who were very or extremely involved. Most Villages are freestanding organizations. A few were part of a private social-service agency, a continuing-care retirement community or housing provider, or part of a care consortium.
Services provided by Villages
Volunteers play a large role in Village management by assisting with group activities or administrative tasks. Staff provide some services, such as monitoring phone requests, coordinating requests for professional services, and organizing recreation and social events.
The most likely services to be referred to outside providers are home maintenance and repair, home health and personal care, housekeeping, and legal and financial assistance.
All but three of the 69 Villages in the Rutgers survey reported charging a membership fee. An average annual fee for an individual was $430.75 and for a household was $586.91. Some discounted memberships were available with income thresholds. Most of the villages are located in predominantly urban or suburban areas and serve high or middle-to-high income areas.
The typical Village has 96 members, predominately white women over the age of 65. About half of the members live alone, and a quarter need help with household chores. If needed, the Village can help with referrals to physicians and home health aides, but the primary emphasis is on the buying power of the group for non-healthcare services and the social support of the members.