“It takes a village to support our seniors”
More and more older people will be able to live independently and comfortably at home while aging, thanks to the development of senior villages. These community-based villages offer a set of services based on volunteering, tech equipment and reciprocal support. The first named Village in the U.S. opened in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston in 2002. Growing interest in the model has led to a surge in new Villages in recent years, with over 200 Villages operating in 2017 and more than 150 in development. The national nonprofit Village to Village Network (VtV Network) was formed in 2010 to share best practices and offer guidance to both existing and developing Villages.
As people are aging with an expanded health span, it represents a change from institution-based care often linked with physical dependency and exclusion from family and social life, to a better quality end of life based on self-sufficiency. 80% of older adults desire to remain in their homes and communities as long as possible, rather than move to age-segregated facilities (source: AARP). “Aging-in-Place” describes the ability to live independently and comfortably at home while aging, regardless of income, race, or general ability level. Villages offer an aging-in-place option for seniors to stay in their home environment while still being cared for.
Aging people want to be able to choose the place where they will end their life and not be forced into institutionalization. Villages represent a solution to go beyond the dilemma between care/support (facilities) and independency (home alone). This also provides families with peace of mind, as they feel their parents are getting frail but they don’t want to isolate them in care facilities. In addition, this represents a means for the society as a whole to offer a more humane solution to the “aging issue”. Insurances and government might be interested as well as medical expenses linked to residential care facilities will be reduced.
There would be an extended continuum of solutions for seniors, from the home to residential facilities to fully-medicalized senior care institutions. Villages will be more and more frequent and host several generations of seniors. Their interactions will rely on mutual support and exchange of services, from daily life routine (groceries, cleaning, mail), to medical followup, from home maintenance (home improvement, IT equipment) to social and leisure activities (sports, games, movies). Freshly retired individuals will remain active as they support older ones in their everyday tasks and organize social activities to mix different generations of seniors. Healthcare providers will be more mobile and care will be decentralized from the hospital and medical facilities to move to the home. Technology and services companies will develop solutions to equip villages, giving seniors even more autonomy, while making sure they receive the monitoring, diagnostics abilities, support and adapted treatment. Entertainment companies will adapt to provide seniors with on-site activities. Costs will be reduced for individuals, families and society as less staff will be needed,
No doubt, there’s work to do to plan the Senior Village of the Future, in terms of health care decentralization, urban architecture, optimization of daily routine processes and creation of entertainment services. So… who’s in to join the effort?