Bloomberg: “Room for Substantial Growth” in Village Model for Aging in Place

With about nine in ten older Americans wanting to age in place, the expanding village movement, which helps senior households remain in their neighborhoods rather than move into a retirement community, has substantial room for growth according to a Bloomberg article.

The village model began about ten years ago in Boston with the Beacon Hill Village, developed after an older couple still living in their neighborhood realized they could use some outside help—but didn’t necessarily have to move to get it. Instead, each village compiles a list of vetted providers or resources valuable to seniors, and helps connect members of the local network with services they need, often at a discount. 

Bloomberg reports:

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Village organizers and academics stress there’s no single model for how villages operate, but there are common traits. The groups are nonprofits and rely predominantly on membership dues for operating costs, with median annual fees of $420 for individuals and $590 for households. 

Most villages serve middle- to upper-middle-income households generally not eligible for public assistance programs for the aged [and] typically have just one or two full-time employees who manage volunteer armies. 

Such grassroots movements are being launched by baby boomers across the country. “Villages are a recognition that for many people, the traditional structures that provided these services — nearby family, churches, fraternal organizations — don’t exist,” says University of California-Berkeley professor Andrew Scharlach, director of the Center for the Advanced Study of Aging Services and a leading researcher of the village movement. 

The appeal is not just to the elderly, but also to their adult children. “We can be the boots on the ground” for children who live far away, says Katie McDonough, executive director of the Capitol Hill Village, which serves 375 members.

Since nearly 90 percent of older folks, however, want to “age in place” rather than go to a retirement community, an assisted-living facility or, ultimately, a nursing home, there could be room for substantial growth in the village movement. New research by Rutgers University and Berkeley’s Center for the Advanced Study of Aging Services shows that the median membership for villages grew by 33 percent, to 92 members, in the 12 months through January 2012.

There are currently about 93 villages across the country with another 125 in development states, according to the Village to Village Network, a website with contact information for the various networks, Bloomberg reports. 

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Written by Alyssa Gerace

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