It Still Takes a Village ~ a really cool option for aging in place

This week I had another NPR Driveway Moment.  If you listen to public radio, a driveway moment is when a conversation on your car radio is so interesting that you actually continue to sit in the car in the garage or the driveway until it’s over because it’s just too good to miss.  I love a good driveway moment.

With my 65th birthday looming on the very near horizon and my recent proclaiming of my Leap Day to retirement, it’s safe to say that the whole process of living out whatever years I have left in this particular go-around has been on my mind.  In the short term, it’s about staying fit and healthy, downsizing, scraping together all our pennies and coaxing them to miraculously multiply and looking at ways we can spend the next few years traveling and exploring other countries and cultures.  All good stuff, but there’s also the longer view.  What happens when we can’t, or no longer want to be retired gypsies.   At some point, we’ll have to settle down, settle in and settle for a much quieter existence.  Oh, NO! Not the HOME!

Actually, I’m pretty sure we won’t be able to afford assisted living.  At least in the U.S.

And that’s how I came to this particular driveway moment.  The show was about the Village movement for elders that has been quietly springing up in towns and cities across the United States, Canada and is slowly spreading to other parts of the world.  The idea for the first village came from the brilliant minds of a group of folks in Boston’s Beacon Hill area who were facing retirement and wanted to explore creative and affordable options that would allow them to age in place – literally living in their own neighborhoods and homes.  In 2002 they founded Beacon Hill Village and it has become a model for other villages.  These “villages” are springing up everywhere.  There is one in the planning stages in Northeast Portland.  Another in Ashland, Oregon. In fact, there are more tha 70 village networks in the U.S.  From Maryland to Michigan elders are banding together and creating exciting alternatives to assisted living facilities.

The village concept begins with the simple idea of bringing services to the people rather than people to the services.  Each non-profit village is independently created and functions with a board, a small staff and many volunteers.  Instead of paying thousands per month, you pay between $200 – $1000 a year to become a member.   The village system offers transportation to doctor appointments and the grocery store, yard work, home repair, and other services (usually for a discounted fee, but sometimes at no charge by a volunteer).  There are social and educational offerings, as well as fitness classes – all with transportation provided.  Each village is unique to its residents.  I smiled at the comment made by a women from the Village to Village Network.  “Most people think if you’ve seen one village you’ve seen them all, but the truth is – If you’ve seen one village, you’ve seen ONE village.”  They are created by the people, for the people.

I absolutely love this idea.  A little help when it’s needed.  The social contact that keeps our minds lively and our spirits and bodies healthy.  Dignity still firmly intact.  If it takes a village to raise a child, it seems like a perfectly wonderful idea that grandma and grandpa create their own village to grow old in.

We’re not ready to become Village People yet, (sorry I had to fit that in someplace)  but it gives me peace of mind to know that when the time gets closer, we have options.  Maybe even options that won’t break the bank.  More research is definitely in order.

If you have experience with this type of elder village or other unique ways seniors are finding to age gracefully and less expensively, please share them.  This is important information!  Aging minds want to know.







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9 thoughts on “It Still Takes a Village ~ a really cool option for aging in place

  1. Excellent article! And don’t ya just love NPR/OPB? I can certainly see how that sprang out of the Beacon Hill area in Boston…who’d wanna leave that?! I can definitely see this type of concept working in a number of Portland neighborhoods. Good stuff.

    • Yep. I love those brilliant driveway moments and the “no screaming idiots” format on NPR. I still love Car Guys even though they are all repeats.

    • Maria, I think many other countries do a much better job of this than the US. I like this idea a lot.

  2. What a fantastic idea! I love when the paradigms we’re used to living by are challenged and enhanced by someone’s courage to think differently and do differently.

    • I so agree Leah. We too often just keep doing the same old thing because “that’s how it’s done” even when it no longer serves us.

  3. Thanks for sharing your driveway moment. It’s at least as good as a shower moment or a waiting for the microwave moment.

    The Village to Village concept gives a lot of us hope that we will be able to depend on one another at least as much as on hired help, and grow old in our own communities. The question we ask ourselves about getting older should be “how” instead of “where.” We can also help ourselves by adapting our homes for change, preferably to prevent bad accidents like falls rather than respond to their aftermath. The Village movement helps take the stigma out of aging and may help people feel more comfortable about planning ahead. — Rachel Adelson, author, Staying Power: Age-Proof Your Home for Comfort, Safety and Style (

    • Hi Rachel, Thank you for stopping by my blog and sharing your insights and great information on aging in place. This is a very important conversation for everyone approaching retirement and those who love them as well. Nancy

      • You’re welcome. It’s an interesting conversation to have and it seems to have a lot of mixed messages — stay active, use grab bars! The hope is that over time we’ll be comfortable with both, understanding that grab bars are there as a precaution even for active and strong people … just the way we accept fire extinguishers and seatbelts for people who don’t start fires and drive carefully.

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