It Takes a Village
Grassroots Movement Helps Seniors Age in Place
By Devin D. O’Leary
It’s been said that, “It takes a village to raise a child.” But the truth is it takes an entire community of friends, family and neighbors to properly care for any member of society. Founded in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston around 2002, the “Village Movement” follows that very sentiment. Grouped into nearly 300 loosely connected “Villlages” across the country, the neighborhood-based membership association helps organize local residents to look out for their elderly neighbors. These seniors are connected to discounted local services, given rides to doctors and provided with occasional companionship—all of which gives them the opportunity to fulfill the organization’s general goal of “aging in place.” It’s like assisted living but without having to leave your house.
In 2010 the grassroots movement was formalized into the Village to Village Network (vtvnetwork.com). “Historically, a village was a small population center, usually within a rural area, that was the primary point of social connection between people of that area. Residents of a village knew, interacted with and often depended on each other,” explains VtV Network’s Village 101 Toolkit. “A virtual village today can exist in rural, urban or suburban neighborhoods, even those with greater populations than the historic village. But what still defines it is a distinct community in which people know, look out for and assist one another.”
Corrales is home to our state’s oldest Village-inspired community. Village in the Village was formed in 2011 close to the start of the VtV Network and started providing services in 2014. “Corrales is unique, in that most people live on one-acre homesites and we don’t have amenities like sidewalks or grocery stores within walking distance. Furthermore, 30 percent of Corrales residents are age 65 and older!” points out Sarah Pastore, executive director of Village in the Village. ViV averages about 150 members at any given time: full members who receive services and supporting members who may only need short-term assistance. “Supporting members often feel that they ‘pay it forward’ with ViV; they volunteer now to insure that ViV is there to help them if they need services someday,” says Pastore. “One of our most requested services is transportation to medical appointments or errands like grocery shopping. But we also provide companionship visits, basic assistance with technology and light household chores such as changing hard-to-reach light bulbs. We offer many social events ranging from book and movie clubs, to a men’s group, to monthly luncheons and happy hours. These events, along with companionship visits, are really important to help members avoid feelings of isolation.”
Albuquerque’s newest entrant into the Village Movement is Parkland Village, which covers the Gibson/San Mateo/Zuni area east of the Ridgecrest neighborhood. The president of Parkland Village’s board of directors is Rich Weiner, a UNM law school graduate who works for a telephone legal hotline for the elderly. He first heard about the Village Movement back in 2017 when Parkland Village’s current vice president Mara Hoffman spoke about the idea at a Parkland Hills Neighborhood Association meeting. “I went back to California,” recalls Wiener, “and one friend told us her 96-year-old ex-mother-in-law owed her freedom to Ashby Village—a fairly large Village that encompasses the East Bay area of San Francisco. It was a very powerful statement to me. When I returned to Albuquerque about a week or so later, I called Mara and said, ‘Let’s move this project forward.’ “
The newly formed Parkland Village is hoping to build membership and will be hosting a “launch party” on July 10 from 1 to 3pm. The event features snacks, drinks and live music from the band Saoirse and singer-songwriter Jacques Dorier. Residents of Albuquerque’s Southeast Heights curious about membership can talk to volunteers and board members. Those interested in volunteering to help out neighbors are also encouraged to attend.
“I think village organizations are critical to the well being of seniors,” says Pastore. “These services, combined with regular opportunities to connect socially, make a huge difference in seniors being physically and mentally able to not only continue aging in place, but to age well.”
But for Weiner, Villages are about more than just senior care. “It’s not only about ageing in place, in our own homes,” he says. “I see it as strengthening of sense of community in our neighborhoods, appreciating one another, helping one another.”
Parkland Village’s Launch Party takes place Sunday, July 10 from 1 to 3pm in Hyder Park (700 Pershing Ave. SE). For more information on the Parkland Village, go to parkland.helpfulvillage.com. For more information on the Corrales Village, go to villageinthevillage.org.