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“National Village Gathering” Event Promotes Aging in Community

Article submitted by Arnie Snyder, Littleton, Colorado.

More than 40 age-in-community villages have sprung up in the US over the past three years. Rapid growth is riding a wave-crest of enthusiasm to help seniors live in the comfort and security of their own homes as they grow older.

The promise of villages is to create mutual support systems in neighborhoods for millions of Americans age 55 and up. Village membership typically ranges from one hundred to several hundred persons each. Villages are surging in popularity, and the prospects of this national movement are very encouraging. (See also The Village Movement and the 2010 National Village Gathering.)

At last month’s 2010 National Village Gathering in Philadelphia, 200 attendees from 26 states shared their passion and experience on villages, or age-in-community neighborhoods. Through talks, panel discussions, and intensive interaction, conferees gained an excellent understanding of principles and “best practices” to help plant and grow villages in their own communities.

Among the great benefits of a village are emotional and social connections to neighbors through events, get-togethers and regular activities. The entire community is enriched by keeping older residents actively engaged within their neighborhoods. (See also Age-in-Community Neighborhoods: Bringing New Life to Aging).

Here is a brief summary of the 2010 National Village Gathering:

  • How can a group of concerned citizens start up a village in their own neighborhood? A conference panel discussion, “Getting Started: Villages 101” offered perspectives by three villages: Washington Park Cares (Denver); Avenidas (Palo Alto, Calif.); and Beacon Hill Village (Boston). Business planning for villages was featured in a panel talk by Beacon Hill Village, Washington Park Cares, and Staying Put in New Canaan (Connecticut).
  • On the “Membership and Financial Sustainability” panel, Beacon Hill Village was joined by Elder Help of San Diego and Cambridge at Home (Massachusetts). “What Keeps You Up at Night?” was the subject of a panel discussion led ably by San Francisco Village, Penn’s Village (Philadelphia); and Crozer Keystone Village (Springfield, Pa.).
  • Options for organizational structure were explained by three villages, illustrated by example: “Volunteer First,” Capitol Hill Village (Washington, D.C.); “Village Under a Parent Organization,” Crozer Keystone Village; and “Hub and Spoke,” Marin Village (Oakland, Calif.).
  • Breakout sessions on web and database services were presented by ClubExpress.
  • At the general sessions, conferees learned about important topics from experts, for example: healthcare reform, The SCAN Foundation; fundraising, NCB Capital Impact; data collection, University of California Berkeley; and strategic partnerships, National Council on Aging and an Area Agency on Aging.

Of course, conferees gleaned valuable insights from the myriad spontaneous conversations by couples or within groups.

Next year’s village conference promises to be even better-attended and more comprehensive with an increase in the number of villages nation-wide. The host city will be announced in 2011.

As the village movement gains momentum, information and resources are becoming much more plentiful for community leaders who desire to plant or grow a village. If you’d like to know more about villages and how you can get your community involved, look for upcoming articles at SeniorsResourceGuide.com. Be sure to check out the Village to Village Network (www.vtvnetwork.org) and the websites of organizations cited in this article.

© 2010, All Rights Reserved by O. Arnold Snyder