It may take a village to raise a child, but what does it take to make sure that we maintain a high quality of life as we age? Across the country, hundreds of communities have enthusiastically stood up and declared that they have the capacity and willingness to extend the idea of a caring village to vulnerable community members not just in their earliest days, but in their later days as well. However, unlike children, older adults give invaluable insight on what kind of help they need to live their best life. That is the beauty of the village movement. With a member-focused approach, neighbors can come together and provide the right kind of support for community members. This means they can age in their community with dignity, meaning, and belonging.
We all need a home
In survey after survey, seniors indicate that they want to stay in their homes for as long as physically possible. That preference makes sense because humans thrive in community. Why would we want to live out the end of our lives separated from the networks we have spent our whole lives constructing? That is a core problem with the modern conception of senior living. We think that our elders will be happier if they are in assisted living because they will be safer or that moving into a home closer to family would be infinitely better than staying where they have been for years. “Home” is so much more than a place to live. “Home” is built from the network of relationships and memories that surround and connect us to our community.
Growing older and growing community
As we grow older, our social circles grow smaller, our commitments less time consuming, and our days quieter. Those are natural changes that come with a long life. However, it is easy to become isolated as it becomes more difficult to leave home to participate in the social and physical activates that were once easy and integral parts of daily life.
Being part of a village can be an opportunity to maintain an active, social lifestyle to whatever extent you desire as well as get a little bit of help when you need it. The natural byproduct of taking advantage of these opportunities is the strengthening of both old and new connections. You can call and ask for some help getting to the grocery store and end up strolling and chatting with a new friend as you browse through the produce. How wonderful is it to know that you have people that care for you and are also part of a network that can care for others as well? This is the village concept.
“I’m not there yet”
When discussing the village concept this is the typical response: “That is a great idea, but I don’t think I need that just yet.” It is important to ask this question in response: how do you ensure that it will be there for you when you do need it? Networks of care take investment because building relationships takes time. Investing time and other resources into the care of vulnerable community members means that you are building a precedent that will be strongly established when you are “that age” as well.
What if we could make the Village idea a mainstream concept and a completely viable option for everyone as they age? We think it is a real possibility here in Colorado Springs. While looking to the models of successful villages across the country we are getting started in the Old North End Neighborhood and already have a handful of members as well as trained volunteers.
Interested in learning more? Call Nancy, the Program Coordinator for the ONEN iVillage at 719-332-5528 or send an e-mail to Nj.firstname.lastname@example.org