It Does Take A Village!

First there were Sit-Ins and then...

Baby Boomers continue to redefine the stages of life. They've done it since 1947, and the evolution of the "Village" concept which began in Boston and has since grown (rapidly) across the United States is the latest example. If you haven't already read an article tracking the progress of this contemporary incarnation of the old-fashioned cooperative society (here and here), then let me tell you what you need to know.

What is a "Village"?

Way back in 1999 with one year left before the millennium came to an end, a group of friends residing in central Boston gathered and discussed what it would take to permit them to age in their current homes: allowing them to remain members of the community they loved and knew so well. They were looking for options that were directed by them and traditional models of care delivery were all deemed inadequate. Not finding any existing solutions they created one of their own: a grass-roots membership organization where the members decide what they want (and don't want). Beacon Hill Village (named after the neighborhood) began in 2002 (incorporated as a 501(c)(3)) and the meaning of aging in place has never been the same.

In their own words:

"We take pride in offering members a solution or helpful response whenever they call the Village office. We are skilled at locating and evaluating the best local resources and usually negotiate discounts and preferred service. Some services are offered y volunteers, others by professionals. We also have strategic partners, professional organizations that support our goals, including experts in home health care and geriatric medicine."

In the ten years since the first Village came on-line, there are now more than 60 Villages nationwide and they share best-practices through the Village-to-Village Network. The first Village in Illinois began a couple of years ago in Lincoln Park. For purposes of full disclosure, the reader should know that I have donated to the Lincoln Park Village. Like other Villages, the Lincoln Park Village connects members for mutual support, creating a multi-generational community where needed support is provided to elders, allowing them to remain an integral member of the community.

The Path to Growth:

Although Villages do exist beyond upscale urban enclaves and can be found in suburban and rural communities, I do wonder about how easily they network can be scaled to grow beyond being a boutique service concept in the constellation of elder care services across the nation. For example, even in densely packed urban settings, Villages are designed to serve relatively small areas, but they rely on city/region-wide fundraising. This can inhibit the growth of Villages in nearby areas. Additionally, the current map (here) of existing and proposed Villages seems to reflect lack of diversity with regards to the economic-profiles of the communities served. To be fair, providing low-income elders with appropriate services to remain in their communities is challenging for the existing home and community based services infrastructure.

What do you think?

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Comments

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  • The Renaissance Collaborative (TRC) operates housing for the difficult to house. Seniors are a growing sector of that population. Last year TRC opened a new 7 story building for active seniors with a senior services social worker on site. The building also has a work-out center complete with weight machines. The center is open to anyone age 55 or older at no charge.

    What makes this a "village" are the future plans. The next building to go on line will house grandparents raising minors, undoubtedly the fastest growing population world-wide. This "village" concept may be the best way to start offering services to the surrounding urban and low income population. I hope in the near future this development can get some attention from not for profit developers, like TRC to add free standing single family homes at the development site for others willing to act as a supportive family to the elderly of the village.

  • Danie,
    Where is the TRC community you mention? I'm not certain why you believe that elders are a growing segment of the "difficult to house" but I am glad to hear of a successful community orientated to serve the +55 in (hopefully) an affordable setting.

    Thank you for your comment!

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    Bruce Lederman has over 25 years experience in the senior care field as a direct care provider and thought leader. Bruce was CEO and president of his own firm that operated skilled nursing facilities in Illinois. He is a former nursing home administrator and has consulted to numerous elder care providers on planning for strategic growth as well as process improvement. Recently he served as board chair of CJE SeniorLife, a leading non-profit elder care provider in the Chicago area. Bruce is currently employed as chief strategy officer for a company providing skilled nursing services in communities throughout Illinois and Missouri.

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