Villages are communities that are designed to support the process of aging in community. The Village-to-Village Network offers resources and a Toolkit for communities that wish to form a village. There are four distinguishing features of villages:
- Has physical boundaries within existing neighborhoods. This allows residents to remain in their communities and preserve existing social networks.
- Is considered to be a non-profit grassroots organization, and is usually incorporated as 501 (c) 3 nonprofit with a board of trustees comprising village residents. Some villages have paid staff, and all villages rely on volunteers, who typically perform basic services (such as yard work) and administrative tasks (such as organizing social events). Volunteers may be village residents or non-residents who wish to strengthen the community.
- Receives funding, in part, by annual membership dues. A 2012 survey conducted by the Rutgers School of Social Work found that the average cost of an individual membership for a village is $430, with a range of $25–$948. Many villages offer discounted membership dues to low-income seniors. Additionally, villages receive funding from grants, donations, and fundraisers.
- Establishes partnerships with local businesses and service providers in order to offer members affordable, trustworthy services. Villages offer a network of pre-screened and sometimes discounted preferred providers to perform labor intensive or technical services such as dial-a-ride transportation, in-home healthcare, and automotive repairs.
The greatest barriers to creating villages are recruiting and retaining members, and fundraising, which can be overcome by starting small and growing, having a reserve fund before becoming operational, and being open to changes in plans.
Beacon Hill Village in Boston, Mass. is one of the most successful villages, offering numerous services to its members, age 50 and over, including meal delivery, medication reminders and reduced-rate gym memberships. Another example, the Support Network at Penn National (SNaP) in Fayetteville, Pa. offers tax-deductible membership dues, daily personal check-in calls, educational programs, and volunteer-based transportation services, among other benefits.
The Brandywine Village Network in New Castle County, Delaware was the first in village established in the state. It offers its members social and wellness classes including yoga and Spanish, help with basic tasks such as grocery shopping and discounted service providers. The Greater Lewes Community Village in Sussex County was established as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) in 2014. It provides support, services, and programs that make it possible for the members to live independently and safely in their homes as they grow older, while remaining engaged in a variety of social, educational and cultural activities.
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