The idea is simple: instead of leaving their homes for years of living in a seniors-only community, Boomers are forming nonprofit membership organizations. These organizations provide access to services like transportation, technology training and support, wellness programs, minor house repairs and yard maintenance, and social activities. Villages range from a few blocks in an urban or suburban neighborhood to a rural area with a 20-mile radius. Most participate in the Village to Village network.
While we like to consider ourselves fairly “with it”, a year ago we didn’t know what a Village was. Now we’re in one.
We’re “in” in several respects. First, we’re going to be members. Having just moved to the Central West End in St. Louis, the STL Village already provides a social network that would otherwise have been difficult to find. When its doors open in June, we fully expect to join walking, golf, gardening, and excursion groups. We will also be volunteers to support others who may need a light bulb changed, a bathroom caulked, or a pet cared for as they recover from an operation.
We’re also “in” because we have offered our Saving Memories Forever service as a free benefit to STL Village members. Let’s face it: this is the prime age group with a lot of stories and sharing their stories is a priority.
Collecting life stories will be offered both as an independent activity and a volunteer supported service. Most STL Village members will first hear about the service as they learn about the Village program and explore the membership benefits. We expect that many will just sign up and start using it on their own. For STL Village members who own smartphones but want some initial support, we will hold our Beginner and Advanced “How To” classes.
The service will also be offered to STL Village members who do not have smartphones. Volunteers will be trained and then sent out into the community to record members’ life stories. STL Village members will be able to share their life stories with their families through our website, SavingMemoriesForever.com.
Last but not least, STL Village will use the Saving Memories Forever service to keep a collective record of organization-sponsored events and activities. Arthur Culbert, STL Village Acting Executive Director, notes, “It’ll be great! Just think of the members’ stories that we can collect on the van ride home from a morning at the Soulard Market! The service will certainly allow us to build our case. It will help us with both attracting new members and gaining sponsors. Both are important to our goal of having a vibrant and diverse membership.”
Speaking of membership: it’s been a remarkable adventure. The first Village opened in Boston in 2002. Today, the number of villages registered with the national Village to Village network has increased from 50 in 2010 to 124 this year, with more in development.The media has caught on too. The Village movement has recently been featured on NBC Nightly News and touted in articles in both The Washington Post and Forbes Magazine’s online news service, Next Avenue.
So if you’re beginning to think about life beyond 50 for yourself or your parents, look into the Village movement. It turns out that “staying put” with a Village’s support is a good way to age for both mind and body.