It takes a village…to support seniors aging in place, and thankfully more “senior villages” are popping up in communities across the United States and Canada. When asked, most older adults say they want to remain in their homes where they have the support of friends and family, and the comfort of familiarity. But many seniors are without children or spouses, or other loved ones nearby to help. Local groups and older adults are banding together to create senior memberships that offer transportation, home upkeep, connection to resources, and social activities for elderly neighbours.
To thrive in older age seniors need not only access to healthcare, food and affordable housing – having a sense of community and belonging is also key to staying active, engaged, and experiencing a good quality of life. According to a recent article in The Washington Post, nearly 300 villages have sprouted across America, improving the health and well-being of seniors. Historically, the vast majority of members of these senior communities were White, homeowners, and college-educated.
More recently, grassroots groups have been working to create senior villages for people of colour and LGBTQ groups with discounted or free memberships for low-income seniors. Having access to transportation to appointments, social outings, and shopping trips improves the lives of seniors in underserved neighbourhoods significantly. Villages that operate as non-profits may also be able to apply for municipal grants to help provide services and resources to community-dwelling seniors, helping them stay in their homes while remaining connected to their people.
Belonging to a village can help promote wellness in many ways through access to regular healthcare, nutrition, and perhaps most importantly – relief from stress and social isolation. The model village started in Beacon Hill, Boston in 2001 to help elderly neighbours remain in their homes with support from the local community. The idea caught on and similar networks have popped up across the country with annual memberships helping to provide transportation, regular social events, medical and wellness services, tech support and help with household tasks or grocery shopping.