By Marsha Andrews, J.D.
A few months ago, we talked about various ways to age in place by being socially connected to friends and family. This month we are going to give you a resource that will not only educate you on how to use network of services but also show you how to connect you with persons that share similar interests. It’s called a “Virtual Village.”
A Virtual Village is a community that people join through membership to help us boomers stay in our homes for as long as we can. It focuses on seniors embracing the idea of sustaining a good healthy environment by connecting with businesses in the community that will assist you in a myriad of services.
Historically, the first formal Village was founded in Boston’s historical Beacon Hill neighborhood in 2001when approximately twelve residents came together to discuss ideas on how to remain at home – once transportation and household chores became difficult or impossible to perform. A major concern was not to become a burden to their children and even more important, they didn’t want to move to an old age facility. As a result, an “intentional community” or “virtual community” evolved.
The basic business model was based upon the formation of a non-profit corporation with members who subscribed to any and all types of services as well as receiving grant funding to offset the services. Such services include transportation, grocery delivery, light home repairs, home cleaning, cooking and dog walking. Nearly all services are provided by either volunteers or paid staff members. Most Villages do not provide medical services or involved home maintenance, but provide referrals to those who do. Staff members and volunteers may select and screen outside providers and assist members with scheduled appointments. In most instances, these providers will offer their services to the Village members at a discount rate.
A Village can mean different things to different members. For example, for some, it could be a good source for social networking. This may give you an opportunity to streamline your own activities with those friends and acquaintances that share your same interests. It may also give you access to timely information and interesting conversations with your peers about aging and health related topics. Also, give you resources on how to connect with quality service providers – on what you need when you need it. It may also give you the ability to plan for a future time when you may need more assistance. These are just a few examples of what a Village can offer. There is a cost to join however there are programs available to assist low income households.
If you are interested in learning more about a Village near you, please join the Seattle King County Advisory Council on Aging and Disability Services at a special forum on “virtual villages” this Friday, July 8 from 12 noon – 1:30 p.m. The guest speakers will be Judy Kinney, Executive Director of NEST (Northeast Seattle Together), Denise Klein, Executive Director of Wider Horizons: Central Seattle’s Village for Life and Alex Gramp of PNA Village. Each will describe the advantages for aging in the home and community of their choice; what a Virtual Village means, how it helps older adults age in place and create communities, what types of services do these villages provide and where do the existing models operate in our various communities. Seating is limited. So RSVP with Gigi Meinig of the Seattle King County Advisory Council on Aging and Disability Services at (206) 684-0652. Thanks for taking a senior moment with me. Until next time.