There is a new concept sweeping the nation that helps people to age in place longer. It is called the "Virtual Retirement Village" or "Village" for short. It's a new idea that is a practical means to help people to remain in their homes as they grow older. It is not a place or physical structure but a collection of neighbors working together.
The concept was started in 2001 when neighbors in a Boston area decided to band together to help each other with services, social activities, and more, allowing them to live independently in their own homes. Beacon Hill Village was born and the idea of the Village materialized. The idea caught on and now there are about 50 Villages in the U.S.
The concept is simple. A Village is a community based membership organization run by the users to provide a variety of services and programs to the members. Some Villages have age requirements, while others do not. This is a concierge style service where one phone call can access any service. A board of directors oversees the Village, usually with members of the Village on the board. It has its own website and newsletter. Social and cultural events are held. A Village will have preapproved vendors for services who have been screened and qualified, and usually offer a discount to Village members. Some of these services might include:
· Home maintenance
· Home Health Care
· Yard work
· Odd jobs
· House cleaning
· Meal preparation and delivery
· Legal assistance
· Daily telephone check in
· Healthcare providers
· Volunteer opportunities
· Safety services
• And peace of mind
The geographic boundaries and membership size are determined by those planning the Village and may change as Villages evolve and become part of the service continuum in their communities. Annual dues are determined but are in the range of $600-900 for singles, and $900-1200 for couples. Membership dues cover most, if not all, of the expenses. Some Villages fundraise annually to help keep dues low. Others fundraise only the amount needed to get the Village up and running and rely on membership dues after that. To keep expenses down for the members, some of the work can be done by volunteers.
A handful of people are looking into the feasibility of starting a Village in the San Jose area. We are fortunate enough to have two neighboring Villages, San Francisco Village formed in 2009, and Avenidas Village in Palo Alto formed in 2007. These two Villages will be models for our new Village. We are in the very early stages of development and are trying to determine if the establishment of one is practical and wanted. Much needs to be done. There has to be community outreach to educate and recruit the public. This must be a grass roots movement with the end users creating the Village, not the board of directors or the vendors. Demographic studies need to be done to define the location, boundaries, and age range. If we do decide to proceed with this work, we need to create focus groups, establish a budget, write a business plan, and develop a handbook. We will then establish a board, work with Community Foundations for funding, and establish the Village itself.
What can you do to help? We need people to spread the word. Educate yourselves on the concept, and start talking about it to your garden club, work colleagues, neighbors, Rotary group and anyone else that will listen. We need people to do the hard work mentioned, and grow the volunteer base.
Some good links to learn more about Villages:
Beacon Hill Village http://www.beaconhillvillage.org/
Avenidas Village http://www.avenidas.org/
San Francisco Village http://www.sfvillage.org/
Village to Village Network http://vtvnetwork.org/
A great PowerPoint presentation from Avenidas Village: http://www.avenidas.org/assets/pdf/AvenidasVillagePresentation.pdf
An article from the San Francisco Chronicle on the San Francisco Village. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/12/12/HOOLSGC2O.DTL&hw=villages&sn=001&sc=1000
If interested, please contact Skip Frenzel, 408-984-6661, info@AgapeLTC.com for more information and to volunteer for help.