Over the last month, we have been hosting meetings throughout the County to revisit the results of the Door County Age-in-Place survey specific to the different areas and review the most promising answer to the concerns expressed by our residents. The solution…the Village model. The Village Movement began over 20 years ago with a group of older adults in Boston that wanted to live in their own homes while staying engaged in their neighborhood, born with the idea of being active and supporting each other and others with the same needs and outlook.
Now there are more than 300 Villages across the nation and many others in development that have proven that seniors aspire to age independently in their communities. Through the unique approach of the Village, older adults are provided with the necessary support to help them remain living in their homes and communities. The best part about the model is that these are developed, structured and maintained by the older adults of the community.
Villages offer a wide range of services, which are tailored to meet the specific needs of their members, which can be broadly grouped into three categories:
Access to Services:
One of the primary goals of a Village is to help older adults access the services they need to live independently. These services can range from healthcare, transportation, and home maintenance to social activities and events. A Village typically works with a network of vetted service providers and volunteers to ensure that members have access to reliable and affordable services. For example, transportation services might include volunteer drivers to help seniors get to appointments, social activities, or grocery stores. Home maintenance services might include referrals to contractors or handyman services, or volunteer programs to assist with basic household tasks.
Social and Recreational Activities:
Villages also offer a wide range of social and recreational activities to keep members engaged and connected to their communities. These activities may include fitness classes, book clubs, lectures, movie nights, game nights, and cultural outings. The social and recreational activities help promote social interaction and companionship, which can help to reduce social isolation and promote overall wellbeing.
Advocacy and Support:
Villages also provide advocacy and support to their members. They serve as a liaison between members and service providers, helping to resolve any issues or concerns that members may have. Villages also offer emotional support to members, providing a listening ear or counseling services if needed. They may also provide support to caregivers who are caring for older adults.
The Door County Age-in-Place Survey found that the top services necessary to age-in-place are about maintaining their home – snow removal, routine maintenance, housework, etc. And we know that these are not just the big things such as mowing the lawn, but the little things like help with changing light bulbs, getting down holiday decorations, moving furniture, etc. More than a third also said that transportation, groceries, and social activities were important. All these are exactly the type of concerns that the Village model addresses.
There are so many opportunities for Door communities and the county as a whole to become a Village. We already have a culture of volunteerism and pride in our hometowns. There are organizations that have existing programs that can walk alongside the structure of a Village. For example, one of the main services of a Village is volunteer transportation. We already have an established non-profit, Door-Tran, that can walk alongside a Village to assure its member’s needs are met. They, in turn, may tap into volunteer drivers that can expand their services.
One of the loudest messages heard through the Age-in-Place survey and forums held late last year is that there are many programs available to seniors, but accessibility is an issue. We have organizations such as the ADRC, YMCA, LIR and others that have great offerings but there is a disconnect with seniors in the different regions of Door. The Village model bridges these gaps with innovative activities such as pop-up senior centers, a central hub of information, and most importantly, advocacy.
There many organizations ready to help usher in a new era of aging in Door County, and Do Good Door County is at the forefront of this effort. With the Village model, we can connect them and empower seniors to find a purposeful way to age independently in their communities. By supporting the Village Movement, we can ensure that Door County remains a vibrant, active community for people of all ages.
You can learn more about the Village concept at https://www.vtvnetwork.org/.