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.

Cheers!

Nancy