It was Hillary Clinton who told us that "it takes a village" to raise a child. And I think she was right. What we should also realize is that it takes a village to support us in our old age.
I saw an article in this weekend's New York Times called Retirees Turn to Virtual Villages for Mutual Support, by Constance Bustke. The piece explains how a new organization called a "virtual retirement village" can help seniors access resources and develop social connections to make it easier to age in place. A village is a local, membership-driven organization that posts information about affordable services involving health and wellness, transportation, home repairs, and social and educational activities. Most villages charge dues, but they are non-profit organizations.
The article focuses on the Capital City Village, in Austin, Texas, along with a couple of other villages in New England where the idea originated. Capital City Village provides referrals to over a hundred member-recommended service companies, and to dozens of volunteers who are on call to help out with dog walking, yard work, and other homeowner needs.
The village also hosts social activities such as concerts, restaurant gatherings, lectures, group trips. The whole idea of the village is to support the 90 percent of seniors who want to age in place rather than go into an independent or assisted living facility.
There are more than 120 active villages around the country, with over a hundred others in development stages. They are supported by the Village to Village Network, a consortium of villages that offers background information on what villages do and how they work. There's a page on the website that offers advice and support if you're interested in starting a virtual retirement village in your own community. Most importantly, there's a membership directory where you can locate a village near you.
If you go to the website, click on Village Map in the upper right section of the page, then select your state and hit search. You will get a list of local villages with contact information. Some of the organizations -- they have a variety of names often alluding to "At Home" or "Aging in Place" or "Good Neighbors" or "Connections" -- are members of the virtual network (which offers special benefits), others are non-members, and some are still in development. I looked up my state of New York, and found two dozen listings -- one in my own hometown and several others nearby.
Virtual villages is a grass-roots movement that seems to be addressing some of the crucial issues involved in growing older in our own communities. As one of the Times sources, Dr. Marc Agronin, a psychiatrist in Miami, says, "Having a local network of people to engage with opens up whole new worlds. It's about discovering your strengths and the joy of living."