August 21, 2019

Senior Law Day: The Village Movement and Your Community

Denver Senior Law Day will be held Saturday, July 28 at the Denver Merchandise Mart. This annual educational seminar presents programs specifically designed for seniors in the Colorado community. This seminar will provide attendees with important and useful information on many issues facing our growing senior citizen population. If you are a senior, an adult child with an aging parent, or a caregiver, this is one day you cannot afford to miss. Every attendee will receive a free copy of the 2012 Senior Law Handbook. Mark your calendar today for this excellent and informative event. Click here for more information.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Ready for some refreshing news on the challenges of an aging America?  Look no further than the surging Village Movement. Across the United States, Villages are sprouting up like well-watered tufts of grass, defying an otherwise arid landscape. Within the past two years, this innovative, community-style approach to keeping older adults in their own homes has grown by 80%. According to Village to Village Network, a national advocacy group, 90 Villages are now open and operating, with another 125 in development.

A Village may grow to serve 100 to 400 members or more, typically age 55 and up. Members live in their own homes, which may be located anywhere within the defined membership service area. Most Villages are local nonprofit organizations (IRS 501(c)(3)) with a board of directors who live in the community. The Village Movement was pioneered by Boston’s Beacon Hill Village, founded in 2001.

Village membership offers convenient, one-call access to volunteer services or vendor referrals. Does the member need a ride to the doctor or to the beauty shop? A day out to go shopping with friends? How about a volunteer to fix a leaky faucet, or to climb a ladder and clean out roof gutters?  When a member needs a reliable contractor – for example, a painter, plumber, or lawn service – the Village can suggest vendors from a vetted list.

Social connection is a powerful advantage to Village membership.  Informal get-togethers and educational activities stimulate and strengthen friendships. “Neighbors helping neighbors” is much more than a tagline; nationally, about 60% of Village members serve as volunteers too.  Certainly, this high level of participation is influenced by the can-do will-do spirit of younger members, who are still in their 50s, 60s, or 70s.  However, it also reflects the passion of members in their 80s and 90s to stay active – teaching, mentoring, leading, or whatever they may choose to do.  Community is the heart and soul of a Village.

In brief, Villages can help older adults to deal successfully with three of biggest obstacles to living independently in their own homes.

  1. The Need for Transportation — Driving may eventually become a challenge, so it’s harder to get to the doctor, pharmacy, grocery store, etc.
  2. The Risk of Falling — Injuries due to falls make it necessary for some to leave their homes for assisted living or skilled nursing facilities.
  3. Social Isolation and Loneliness — People need to be around other people, to live in community and maintain a sense of purpose.

A recent study highlights the effectiveness of a Village in helping older adults to live safely at home.  According to One Call Club in Knoxville, Tennessee, 80% of Village members will avoid moving to an assisted living residence or nursing home for at least one year. With nursing home costs running around $200 per day, it doesn’t take a math whiz to see that $600 per year for household membership in a Village is a bargain. (For an individual Village membership, the national average is $460 per year.)

The success of Villages may be attributed to several factors: reduced risk of injury or accident, healthier eating, a brighter emotional outlook, and a renewed sense of purpose. For all these reasons and more, Villages are a promising, cost-effective option for older adults who want to stay in their own homes, in a community of neighbors helping neighbors.

Arnie Snyder is owner of Elder Life Advisors and co-founder of the first two Colorado Villages: Washington Park Cares (now, A Little Help), Denver, and Columbine Community Village, Littleton. He is a member of the National Advisory Committee for Village to Village Network, LLC.