As we have discussed many times on our blog, it is apparent that seniors would prefer to stay in the privacy and comfort of their own home as they age. A recent AARP survey found that, for adults over the age of 65, 88% indicated that they would prefer to remain in their own homes for as long as possible. As the aging-in-place movement continues to grow, new alternatives, such as senior villages to nursing home or assisted living arrangements make remaining in the community a more feasible option for many older adults.
“Senior village” is a model of community living. The village is typically a grassroots organization that helps coordinate daily living, social, and recreational activities for seniors in the area. For an annual fee, participants can receive discounted services or work with volunteers to obtain needed services at home, such as the need for an in-home caregiver.
The scope of what assistance can be provided is only limited by one’s imagination. In one a village located in the D.C area, Mount Vernon at Home, residents receive help with anything from caulking windows to changing an overhead light. Nationally, frequently offered senior services include transportation, educational activities, wellness programs, cultural activities, errand running, and even care management. Innovative village programs offer a variety of groups for members to join, from opera clubs to caregiver support groups.
The first known senior village opened in 2002 in Boston, and the number has grown to over a 100, with dozens in development around the country. The Village to Village Network serves as an umbrella organization, providing development toolkits and other resources to members.
It is important to know that there is no one-size-fits-all template for Villages. Four common models include:
Grassroots organization –The most common business model is a non-profit, stand-alone organization that utilizes both paid staff and volunteers.
Use of parent organization – Aging or social service organizations may expand their outreach by providing start-up and oversight of a senior Village. The parent organization typically services as a fiscal agent and provides various support services.
Hub and spoke – In this model, the hub may be an already established Village, a parent organization, or a non-profit organization that provides support and oversight for several emerging Villages. While each Village would independently deliver services and maintain its own governing council, the hub organization would provide consistent administrative functions for all participating Villages. In nearby Marin County, Marin Village is an example of a centralized hub that provides support for Villages throughout the entire county.
Time bank/reciprocity model – This service delivery model is based upon neighbors exchanging their resources and talents for time instead of money. While volunteerism may be part of any model, in a time bank approach, the service recipients are also the volunteers, as members “swap” services based on time spent rather than a service rate. For example, one member may trade an hour of dog walking for an hour of a neighbor helping out in the garden. Members may donate unused “time dollars” to a community pool. In San Diego, Tierrasanta Village operates a time bank for members.
Regardless of the model, most Villages follow many of the same core principles:
Strong member involvement
Service consolidation or a concierge approach to needed services
Commitment to members being able to remain in their own homes
Holistic focus on member needs – social, health, educational, cultural, etc.
For older adults who wish to live in their own homes and communities but do not have relatives nearby or a strong social network, a Village approach to community living may be an ideal solution. As the number of Villages continues to grow, it won’t be long before seniors in most urban areas – and many rural ones – will have access to this innovative resource.
Be that as it may, senior villages may also come with their cons. Here are a few:
More expensive: If you need skilled nursing care, living in a retirement village might be more expensive than staying in your own home. If you or a loved one has gotten to the point in the aging process where your health is struggling, there might be some hard choices to make about whether it is more cost-effective to keep living in your own home with the help of home health aides and other resources, or to move to a retirement village where you or your loved one can get the care and attention that you need.
Less independence: Some people love the idea of communal living and socializing regularly with other people; others are more independently-minded and love the idea of waking up each day in their own home where they have peace and quiet and feel more in control of their schedule and activities.
No kids around: One of the unusual things about a retirement village is that everyone there is “of a certain age” – there are no young families with children living there. If you live in a diverse generationally-mixed neighborhood, it might be hard to give that up to move to a retirement village.
Doesn’t “feel” right: If you are still feeling healthy and active, it might just not feel “right” to you to move to a retirement village. Before moving to a retirement village, ask yourself, “Does making this move feel like an opportunity to do more of what you want with your life, or does it feel like a defeat?”
Try to make the right decision for yourself and your family. Making a move in retirement is never easy, because we all tend to have emotional attachments and sweet memories of the places where we’ve spent so many years of our lives. But whatever you decide, know that there are more options than ever before to make a good life in retirement. You can have the life you want and get the care you need when the time comes.
Where did you decide to live in retirement? Do you know anyone who lives in a retirement village? What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.