A Whole New Take on Village People

If there’s one unifying factor among Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers, it’s the desire to age in place — around 80 percent of us, according to AARP. The problem is that the number of people aged 65 and over will have more than doubled from 35 million in 2000 to 72 million in 2030. That’s about 20 percent of the U.S. population, a historic high. And the growth is causing a shortage of in-home care agencies and staffing for those agencies. The demand for care workers already is exceeding supply in some areas of the country, and that’s expected to increase. So what to do?

Create a Village!

The new demographics are spurring the development of new, more cost-effective models. One gaining national attention is the Village Movement. Villages are nonprofit membership organizations that offer comprehensive support and social engagement to older adults, enabling them to age in place. Because they are within a larger local community, members have access to people of all ages and all the activities they love.

Villages are developed locally — either within neighborhoods or communities — and are self-governing and self-supporting. Most are independent nonprofits, though a few are developed under larger, local older adult service agencies. They normally have one or two paid staff, and are mostly volunteer-run. A Village’s purpose is to be a liaison for volunteer helpers, be they other physically-able members, other younger neighbors, or even local community service groups. Villages also provide to members with a list of approved and vetted home-maintenance contractors, many of whom offer discounts to Village members. Villages also offer inexpensive ways to participate in local activities, both in-person and online (e.g., virtual yoga classes).

Changing the Face of Villages

However, due to the nature of Villages – often started in local communities by neighbors who already know each other, until recently, most were predominantly white organizations. They also were predominantly in wealthier east and west coast towns. A 2016 study by the University of California at Berkeley found that 96 percent were white, 77 percent owned their own home, and 70 percent were college educated. Originally left out of the picture were the communities of color traditionally shortchanged in health care and social services due to institutional racism, as well as lower-income communities.

The picture is changing. Villages comprised mostly of Black, Indigenous, or other People of Color (BIPOC) have successfully opened. Others are making much-needed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. For example, Charlotte Dickson, of the state-wide Village Movement California, told the Washington Post in November that the organization is reaching out to BIPOC and LGBTQ communities within the state, encouraging member villages to “look at what are the demographics of your community, who is in your community, and what are the organizations, institutions, and leaders that you need to get involved so that everybody is included.”

An Idea for the Future

Although there’s still room for improvement, Villages are a model to learn from and promote. The goal of Villages is two-fold: to help older adults age in place for as long as possible; and to offer services similar to more expensive senior living communities at a fraction of the price.

The annual fee for members depends on the area, from more than $1,000 annually to around $600 annually (more of the average). Most have a subsidy program for members who might find the annual fee too steep, sometimes as low as $10/month or free. And more Villages are opening in lower-income areas most in need of health and social services. Most receive about half of the funds they need through membership fees. The rest is earned through local fundraising efforts and grants.

The keys to a sustainable Village model are participation, community connections, and successful fund raising. To succeed long-term, Villages need the buy-in from their communities and neighborhoods — others understanding why participating in a Village through membership, volunteering, and/or financial support equals a vision of long-term success for all involved. People helping people builds community, lowers isolation, and assures that those in need find the help and services they need — and that is a winning combination for everyone.

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Some helpful resources for future thought:

Third Chapter Living celebrates, challenges, informs and promotes conversations about housing issues affecting the Baby Boomer Generation. Check out our website to learn more about our work. Our Facebook Group is a resource center with tips and recommendations on navigating those issues. Share experiences with others who are looking for Housing Downsizing Tools that allow them to successfully age-in-place.

2 Comments

  1. Susan Stockard on February 13, 2023 at 9:06 pm

    Thank you for adding this to the range of options available. Clearly there’s no “one size fits all.”

  2. Sarah Lee on February 14, 2023 at 9:58 pm

    Thank you Reese. This is an intriguing model.

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