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Aging In Place Takes A Village…Literally

July 29, 2010

AARP has examined a local sample of the grassroots organizations known colloquially as “Villages,” the membership concierge services that help people manage their homes, transportation and even personal care as they age. These grassroots “Villages” are emerging in communities across the US to make continued living in their homes comfortable for thousands of older Americans. The “Village” name comes from Beacon Hill Village, the original neighborhood membership concierge service founded by a group of homeowners in the Beacon Hill area of Boston.

According to a new factsheet from AARP there are 50 of these virtual communities around the country (and one in Australia). “Village” services provide one-call, easy-access to pre-screened personal and home repair services such as door-to-door transportation or handyman help. Many “Villages” adopt a volunteer structure where members themselves and volunteers from the community organize to provide the assistance, from yard work and snow shoveling to computer set-up and troubleshooting. “Nine out of ten older Americans want to stay in their homes for as long as possible and the ‘Village’ movement is capturing the imagination of the Boomers that organized babysitting co-ops in the ’60s and ’70s. Only now, they are organizing services for themselves that will allow them to continue to live comfortably in their homes and communities as they age,” said Elinor Ginzler, AARP Senior Vice President for Livable Communities.

Recent AARP research into Washington, DC area “Villages” in various stages of development uncovered certain elements that make these organizations successful. DC area “Village” leaders report that it is important for a new “Village” to be flexible and open to change. The way a “Village” functions should be determined by what the inhabitants want, with the caveat that members are part of a constantly changing community, according to the AARP survey. Successful groups report that recruitment should focus on one-on-one conversations with possible new members. Members report that one of the most valuable aspects of “Village” membership is the sense of community it fosters. Members also identified transportation is the “Village’s” most valued service. “Creating a livable community where transit, shopping and other necessities are easily accessible is important to everyone, and the “Village” concept is likely to be just one of many new approaches to making communities more livable in the next 30 years,” said Ginzler. You can download the factsheet at http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/housing/info-03-2010/fs177-new.html