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When the movement was launched, the idea was that membership dues would be the villages’ primary source of revenue, but that hasn’t been the case.“The conundrum is how do we pay for this if we don’t rely on membership fees?
At that time, her parents were still living in Japan where she was born, and her mother said, “There is a senior waiting everywhere for help.” Just as someone else was taking care of her parents overseas, Liang had the strong desire to help people older than her on her own turf.
The coordinator manages a vetted list of service providers and community partners to call when a villager needs help: home maintenance and repairs, technology help, health and wellness services, transportation, light housekeeping and shopping assistance.
Service providers—from drivers to handymen—will often negotiate special prices when they’re contracted to work for an entire village.
If I have to stop driving, which would be a very difficult change, I know I could get people to take me to doctors and remain social.
As long as one keeps one’s health within reason, I certainly see this as a solution to a lot of needs.” If you’ve been helping other members while you’re able to and then find yourself needing help, you’ll be less hesitant or embarrassed to ask for help—something many people have trouble doing at all ages.
Roberta Rothman, 76, joined San Francisco Village five years ago after she sold her home and moved back to an apartment in the city neighborhood where she used to live.
“Unfortunately, many of my friends had either moved away or died,” she says.Liang agrees, “It’s my turn to give and help others who are older live a high quality of life. When the time comes, I hope to enjoy the benefits of what we started in Care Connections Network.” The village concept began in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood in 2001.As more villages formed, the Village-to-Village Network was founded in 2010 to help communities establish new villages and manage them, and to grow the village movement overall.Not everyone wants to live in a large retirement community— sometimes referred to as an “old-age ghetto.” When you live in a village, you’re still part of your larger community, too.“I see the village model as an opportunity to create a positive prototype for aging, an image that we’d want to live into,” says Kate Hoepke, the Executive Director of San Francisco Village and Chair of the California Village Coalition, (but not a member of San Francisco Village). When your sink clogs, the village will send a trusted repair person who services all the village members. There are over 300 villages now in the US and each is governed by a board of directors made up of members.And as our worlds shrink, living alone can start to feel lonely—and loneliness, researchers say, can kill. The village community model combines aging in place with the type of interdependent living that helps make aging alone for longer possible.