by Renee Dryfoos
It should be no surprise that thousands of people are turning 65 each and every day in our country. And, it seems rather generally known that options for living a quality life throughout the life-span while remaining in one’s own home, are limited.
For those of us wishing to remain in our own homes, a relatively new and exciting model has emerged. Beginning in Boston with Beacon Hill, the “Village” movement has begun, and now boasts approximately 100 villages nationwide. These are “virtual” villages, i.e. they are networks of households in geographic proximity to one another, sharing services of a common organization, their “Village.”
These organizations (typically non-profits, now existing in a variety of models) provide to their members certain basic services to enhance the quality of life for seniors in their own homes. Typical services include:
- facilitation of social opportunities
- assistance with transportation
- referral to vetted repair/home maintenance providers
- a daily “friendly” call to establish well-being of the member
- assessment of personal safety in the home, and recommendation for any accommodations required
- facilitation of a volunteer network to provide occasional limited assistance in home/personal care
- referral to community services
Imagine you are living alone, and no longer can move objects, or trust that you can manage all that is coming up in your next medical appointment where you will get further diagnosis and treatment recommendations, and you know it is important to get all the information, but as emotional as this is, it will be difficult to accurately recall all that is said.
Imagine too, that you don’t have adult children or other family that could help, and that you don’t want to impose on the people whom you feel you have already “over-burdened.”
Now imagine you have been part of a “Village” and have given your volunteer efforts to give of your talent (perhaps computer help, or cooking help, or peer counseling), and you know you can now ask someone of this network for the assistance you need from a pool of volunteers.
You may have come to know someone through pot-lucks, or talks, or outings, or you may simply request a volunteer, and the Village would provide. This is the way enhanced intentional community can enrich your life. This is the way a Village, not only needed to raise a child, can also be essential in making later years socially “Golden.”
A little over two years ago, a group of neighbors in Village Homes gathered together to discuss Aging-in-Place, and to explore our needs and resources to help one another approach our futures in a manner to optimize our lives.
About 60 of us gathered and generated a list of needs, and resources. Since that time, we have embraced the wisdom that a truly sustainable means of ensuring higher quality life in one’s later years, requires a network constantly enrolling the younger folks as well.
Toward this end we have embarked upon renewing the vitality of Village Homes. We have begun and re-instituted several social efforts (a neighbor welcome wagon, a semi-annual plant swap, garden educational presentations, presentations on residential solar energy, and more).
We have had members of other aging-in-place communities come give us presentations, and had the senior center come and review its services available to our community. We explored time-banking volunteer hours. In addition, we had a representative of Avenedas Village (the Village organization in Palo Alto) record an interview with members which was then viewed by about 40 residents.
We are instituting a friendly caller volunteer program, a virtual tool shed, and may establish a facebook page to share information as to vendors of services, and co-ordinate volunteer efforts – transportation, garden and household tasks, recommendations of service providers.
It is with great excitement that we look to the possibility that there could be established an umbrella organization, a city wide village. We see that such an organization could support the growth of neighborhood volunteer and social groups, while providing a coherent hub for essential “Village” services.
In particular, this central organization could employ a geriatric social worker who could provide members with evaluations of safety in the home, recommendations for modifications and services required, and referral to community resources when appropriate.
The Village could also supply a list of vetted vendors of services tailored to aging in place (remodeling of bathrooms, care providers, etc). The Village could co-ordinate social activities and a volunteer program (for limited services of transportation, education, pet-care, etc)
The village would likely be supported by membership fees (as is currently the case for Avenidas Village).
The time is ripe. So many of us are aging with greater vitality and possibilities than our parents‘ generation. Let us begin a city-wide dialogue as to how we might begin our own Village, one which can care for our elders.