The vast majority of older Americans want to age in place, and rather than needing to move into a senior living community, there’s a growing movement favored by boomers that promotes naturally occurring retirement communities.
The so-called “village” model originated about ten years ago in Boston with the Beacon Hill Village, developed after an older couple still living in their neighborhood realized they could use some outside help—but didn’t necessarily have to move to get it. Instead, each village compiles a list of vetted providers or resources valuable to seniors, and helps connect members of the local network with services they need, often at a discount.
However, while membership rolls are growing, senior living providers don’t need to worry too much about losing potential customers—at least not yet.
Since nearly 90 percent of older folks want to “age in place” rather than go to a retirement community, an assisted-living facility or, ultimately, a nursing home, there could be room for substantial growth in the village movement. New research by Rutgers University and Berkeley’s Center for the Advanced Study of Aging Services shows that the median membership for villages grew by 33 percent, to 92 members, in the 12 months through January 2012.
Villages typically have just one or two full-time employees who manage volunteer armies. The annual dues pay for those workers as well as for expenses that can include office space and equipment and social activities.
…An estimated total village membership of about 10,000 is not going to make the folks at such companies as retirement community giant Pulte quake in their boots. An estimated 300,000 people currently live in a retirement community home built by Pulte division Dell Webb. Also, a big wild card is the reliability and staying power of those volunteer armies, which may come from local community groups, churches, temples and universities.
There are currently about 93 villages across the country with another 125 in development states, according to the Village to Village Network, a website with contact information for the various networks.
As the 65+ population increases, the village movement could have substantial room for growth, says Bloomberg, but also needs a sustainable model.
“We were able to demonstrate that members had a decrease in unmet needs over a six-month period, an increase in their quality of life and a decline in the number of falls,” Andrew Scharlach, University of California-Berkeley professor and director of the Center for the Advanced Study of Aging Services, told Bloomberg. “The challenge for villages will come as members need more help and whether volunteers can meet that need. The potential is tremendous.”
Written by Alyssa Gerace