A new international movement, Villages for Aging in Place, will be introduced to the Tuscaloosa area by Susan Benke for UA’s OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) bonus program on Sept. 14 at noon at the Bryant Conference Center. Villages for Aging in Place is a new option for community members who wish to stay in their own homes and remain independent, yet remain connected to the wider community as they age.
“The Village, at its heart, is about connection to both your community and also with a growing circle of friends. It is about creating your own future and living well throughout the life span even when physical problems, which may cause social isolation, could otherwise force a person to move out of the home one loves,” says Susan Benke, a retiree from the University of Alabama and spokesperson for the local group.
“In November 2015, a group from the Tuscaloosa area started meeting to talk about this new option for aging in place and has gathered interested individuals through the months. We have a contact list now of about 100 potential members, and we envision creating a Tuscaloosa-area non-profit Village. There are currently over 200 Villages organizations in the U.S., Canada and Australia, with two groups now in Alabama—in Huntsville and Auburn—and one under development in Decatur.”
The concept for Villages began in Boston in 2002. The residents in the Beacon Hill neighborhood formed a non-profit group to offer access to services such as transportation, home repairs, home visits and social activities for a reasonable annual fee. Since then each successive organization has tailored its services to meet the needs of its members. Villages offer social and cultural opportunities as well, not only to meet the interests of Village members but also to deepen friendships among members.
The Auburn group, Village Friends Village Values, Inc., offers volunteer services such as check-in phone calls, transportation to medical appointments, delivery of groceries, basic home maintenance, yard care and technology assistance. This newly formed group plans to develop a list of approved fee-based local service providers to refer to its members. Funded by subscriber fees and charitable donations, Villages organizations are run by members and many have paid employees who manage the requests and coordinate the volunteer services.