The Village–to–Village Concept for Aging-in-Place

From CHCA and MANA board members who attended recent presentations.  MANA and CHCA neighbors are exploring the opportunity to develop an Aging in Place Village. Karl Williams from DeKalb’s Office of Senior Affairs spoke at an October 26 neighborhood meeting to introduce the concept and determine interest within the community. The county is offering grant money to "seed" the project.

A “village” is not an actual physical facility but rather occurs within a designated geographic area.  In our case it is centered at the Mack Love Senior Center and extends a couple of miles out from there.  The purpose of the village is to provide a wide array of services to members of the community, drawn from already existing community resources.  The goal is to help its members be better able to stay in their homes as they age.  (MANA is already involved with the Toco Hills NORC - Naturally Occurring Retirement   Community - http://www.tocohillsnorc.org/.)

Each village is self-sufficient and self-regenerating. As we learned from Karl Williams, the Dekalb County representative, a village has the following characteristics:

  • Members identify the services they want
  • Members accept responsibility for membership
  • Members accept the membership fee structure
  • The village develops strong sponsorships and partnerships

Community resources to be included will be determined by the members. This is generally done by use of a questionnaire to collect input from prospective members of the village. Input and participation of the community are essential throughout the process but particularly so in developing priorities for the village.

We know that transportation will be one resource for our village because the grant money is tied to its inclusion. Transportation is generally the number one priority identified by prospective members.  Other important components could be health care providers, home maintenance providers, care management providers, dog-walking services, grocery shopping assistance,etc. All of these resource providers will be vetted for quality assurance. Dekalb County already provides many vetted services that are available for our use.

The village may also seek out strategic partners.  This could include local hospitals, the YMCA, universities, fitness centers, churches, local agencies on aging, or other local businesses to help with funding and service provision.

Within the village are several key positions, usually filled by volunteers from the community.  They include:

  • A Concierge who serves as a point of contact for each village. The Concierge can point members to specific resources or help find an unusual service.
  • An Outreach Coordinator who disseminates information and conducts various programs.
  • A Wellness Coordinator who heads up walking groups, tai chi classes and other activities.

The Board of Directors is usually a group of volunteers with specific expertise such as a lawyer, a care nurse, someone with background in fund-raising or volunteer coordination. The Board creates by-laws, oversees programs, vets resources and helps to raise money to support the village.

In summary, our village can be whatever we make it. It is not intended to keep people at home at all costs, but your participation will help determine and guide the vision of a community that supports those who wish to age in place appropriately.