One of the most important grassroots movements over the last decade to help people stay in their homes, is the Village to Village network. It started in Boston in a walk able neighborhood where residents formed  volunteer based shared services. That organizations is alive and well and just had a great conference; see all

Some locations adapt to its structure better than others because of age demographics and close proximity.  Villages provide 80-90% of the the following services for an annual membership fee to seniors: Transportation -Companionship-Shopping-Village-Sponsored classes or educational events-Village-sponsored social events or outings-Information, advice or referrals to outside service providers-Technology assistance-Home repair or maintenance ( simple tasks for free – others at a reduced rate from verified contractors).

Many of these helping each other out tasks still happen on an informal basis in older tight knit communities without an organizational structure. The biggest problem with Villages is maintaining an ongoing stable set of helpers for the help-ees. As people get older the system to maintain all the volunteer services may have to turn to more actual case management  as members become more frail. But that is still a service chosen and  contracted by the members of the village.

So now that the senior housing industry is in financial trouble because of low occupancy rates (despite the graying of America) this is where they see an opportunity. Yes, an opportunity to ‘partner’ with the villages and provide sponsorship.  By this I do not mean donating money to these worthy non profit organizations. They can not exist if their occupancy falls below 85%, they need ‘heads in beds”. 

Yes, of course there will be individuals who need to move to more supervised care. And no, I am not talking about the home health care industry. It exists to provide valuable services to keep people at home longer. They are in the midst of their own crisis of finding workers to meet the growing need out there. 

But forgive me for saying the statement below from an industry representative who attended the VtV conference and was looking to start partnerships, has a predatory ring to it.  

Is this (VtV) truly a new model for aging that can supersede and supplant today’s business models for senior housing? Or is it simply a fresh start that looks promising in its early beginnings, but that, as members grow frailer, will come to have to deal with the same challenges as the established senior housing industry? The popularity of villages among baby boomers may prove to be more opportunity than threat for those senior housing enterprises able to cooperate with their new neighbors in aging services.

Catch the word threat in there? Like there is only so much room in this town, meet you at high noon at the buffet for a throw down as to who really represents the interests of independent minded boomers. As they say… get off my lawn.