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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