Aging in Place 201

I have noticed very liberal use of the word village  in reference to living options for older folks.  I guess advertising people  think it is a folksy term that  brings up  nostalgic image of days gone by.  Not that most of us ever lived in a village. By definition it is a clustered human settlement.

I am going to not include “The Villages” of Florida as I look at the concept.  This a popular option for retirement, it is located somewhere near Ocala, Florida. “The Villages” is its own address and zip code.  I would say it goes beyond the cluster definition with 28,641 households! That comes with 621 holes of golf and lots of golf carts.

So I wanted to better understand the difference between two major examples of what a approaches the real concept of a  village: the village movement (VtVN) and  co housing communities.  The prime example of the village movement is in Beacon Hill, MA.  Think old, more urban neighbor hood with older homes and  residents that form a non profit to organize and pay dues for needed services they no longer want or can do themselves.

If you were  driving/walking  through the neighborhoods on the village list  http://www.vtvnetwork.org/content.aspx?page_id=1905&club_id=691012 there are no external pavilions or tell tale signs of the village. There are dues  and discounted  payment for services  like tech services, house repair, lawn care as well as volunteers to help with transportation .  The village network in San Francisco is known for 65 different services – concierge style no less.

Co housing as a concept started in Denmark in the sixties.   The hallmark of  this concept is to form an “intentional community in shared space.”  They are more commonly located in more rural areas with lots of surrounding space that will not be developed.  The population is  usually multi generational, although some newer developments are aiming for more retirement age residents. 

The buy in expense is significant in that you are buying  or building a house .  I live only ten miles from a co housing community.  I attempted a drive by, but the cluster of houses and the  pedestrian only  barricades  made it a cursory look only. The lack of fences between the houses and the inner circle aspect of a community house along with more pastoral serene surroundings,  says this is different.  As far as the governing the shared aspect of the communities, that would is a more in depth topic for another time. For a map of existing co housing see http://www.cohousing.org/map

So does it  take a village to either preserve or create a sense of community?  Does the prospect of  going to multiple meetings to keep up the standards/services  of your  village’s community goals, make you want to run away or hang tight?  Or does the hope that the organization of a community for the older  residents guarantee  services that may become scarcer than  predictable weather, seem the only way to go?  The VtVN and Co housing rely on a strong sense of volunteerism and  cooperation  for the common good. They obviously attract  one type of person(s), while the gated communities with their neighborhood watch patrols attract another.

Where am I going with this?  You and I are most probably staying where we are.    Reach out and build on the simple things by just being a good neighbor. You can always start your own VtVN anywhere.   The sense of community you experience in  simple yards sales, block parties  and welcoming new folks are simple steps. Good things can happen when you do not isolate yourself.  Don’t miss the forest for the trees.