The Village Model
Here’s some basic information about the “aging-in-community village” model.
What is an aging-in-community village?
An aging-in-community village is a non-profit membership organization that provides services to residents who prefer to live independently at home for as long as possible, rather than relocate to an assisted living or other similar facility. Through both volunteers and paid staff, a village coordinates access to no-cost and affordable services, including transportation, health and wellness programs, home repairs and maintenance, social and educational activities, and other day-to-day needs, enabling individuals to remain connected to their community throughout the aging process. Aging-in-community is seen by many as an attractive, low-cost alternative to moving into unfamiliar surroundings at a time of life when familiarity with neighbors and physical space is especially important. In addition to supporting older residents, our village concept for LOW also includes residents with special needs who are not seniors.
Why consider an aging-in-community village organization for LOW when our community already has Woods Cares, Fun Bunch, and other organizations for our members to utilize?
There is anecdotal evidence that many LOW members need support beyond the important services that existing organizations provide. Our goal is to offer a broader, community-based organization that would coordinate referrals to outside organizations as well as specific volunteer and fee-based services that will enable LOW residents to live independently at home in our community for as long as possible.
Where did the village concept originate?
The village movement started in Boston and has spread to all sections of the country. The Washington metro area has over a dozen villages, and more are being formed each year. Two nearby villages are At Home in Alexandria and Mount Vernon at Home. Examples of other successful villages in our area include Capitol Hill Village and the Palisades Village. In addition, the Village to Village Network is a national resource on the village movement.
What services does a village offer?
A list of principal services typically includes: 1) transportation for doctors’ appointments, grocery shopping, and routine errands; 2) light household tasks, such as minor repairs, collecting mail, and watering plants; 3) simple bookkeeping, mail management, and computer assistance; and 4) companionship and friendly visits; and 5) educational and social activities. For services that volunteers cannot meet, the village provides the names of, but does not pay the cost of, reliable, vetted service providers and social services suggested by community members.
Who provides the services and who receives them?
There is no set age for joining a village, but a range in age from 50-80 is typical. Younger, more able village members volunteer to provide services to older, less able members, thus encouraging the aging-in-community idea to flourish. Village members who start out volunteering their time may end up receiving services as they grow older. Thus, the motto “neighbors helping neighbors” is often used when describing an aging-in-community village. Volunteers are trained, vetted through background checks, and supervised by a manager.
Which services are most popular?
In many villages, approximately half of provided services involve transportation, especially driving members who do not themselves drive. In-home services are the next most popular, and home maintenance is the third. Evidence here at LOW, based on information from Woods Cares, shows similar needs in these areas.
How is a village structured?
Most villages around the country are grassroots, nonprofit organizations incorporated in the relevant state and operating under section 501 (for nonprofits) of the Internal Revenue Code. A village typically has a part-time or full-time, paid manager, and in the case of large villages, one or more salaried assistants. Other services are performed by volunteers. Most villages operate out of a small office. A board of directors provides guidance and supervision under terms of IRS-approved by-laws and articles of incorporation registered in their respective states.
What is the annual cost of membership?
Most villages in the Washington metro area charge $600 to $800 annually (or $50 to $67 monthly) for family memberships and $350 to $550 annually ($30 to $45 monthly) for single memberships. Costs outside the Washington metro area vary, and in some communities in the U.S., the fees are means tested. Membership fees cover overhead costs and expenses for staff salaries, insurance, and communications.
Do volunteers pay a village participation fee?
No, volunteers do not have to pay, as the village concept both embraces and encourages residents of all ages to volunteer their time, supporting the motto of “neighbors helping neighbors”.
Can adult children purchase a membership for their parents?
Yes, many families have bought village memberships as a gift for a family member. Families are often surprised and reassured to learn how much the Village can make living easier and to help people stay in their homes and communities.
Do people who are healthy join “aging-in-community” villages?
Members typically join for a variety of reasons. Some enjoy the programs and social activities, the convenience of going to one source for all kinds of answers and services, the discounts, the opportunity to connect with others in our neighborhood. Some members join because they need help at home now, and others want the peace of mind knowing they will be prepared for the future.
In addition to support services, what intangible benefits do villages offer?
- Making new friends, companionship, contact with neighbors, and a sense of belonging to a caring community.
- Getting together for coffee, cards, chat, and simply to socialize.
- For volunteers, helping those who cannot help themselves.
- Opportunities for youth to engage with older adults and contribute in a meaningful way to the community.
If a village were implemented at LOW, would it have an impact on members’ annual assessment and fees?
No. Joining would be optional and the village would be operated as a non-profit organization.
What would be the relationship between a village at LOW and the Lake of the Woods Association?
The village would be an independent non-profit organization with no formal relationship with Lake of the Woods Association. We envision working together with residents and the Lake of the Woods Administration to improve the quality of life here at LOW.
Where can I find more information about the "aging-in-place community" village movement?
The following websites provide information about villages in our region and elsewhere. Also, Montgomery County, MD, has a useful Village Blueprint, and the Village to Village Network is an excellent resource:
- Village to Village Network (see Rutgers study on the Village movement)
- At Home in Alexandria, City of Alexandria, VA
- Mount Vernon At Home, Mount Vernon, VA
- Capitol Hill Village, Washington, DC
- Dupont Circle Village, Washington, DC
- Beacon Hill Village, Boston, MA
- Montgomery County, MD