For every retiree that packs up and moves to Florida, Arizona, or some other warm-weather spot, another four or five prefer to stay right where they are. But as they grow older, many people find themselves needing more help, whether it’s a referral to someone who can fix a leaky toilet, a ride to the doctor, or simply a few friends to keep them company.
A group called the Village to Village Network is hoping to create a way for older Americans to age not just in place but in a community. Individual villages may share ideas and experiences through the Village to Village (VtV) Network. VtV was established in 2010 by Beacon Hill Village and Capital Impact in response to requests from a number of villages. At the end of 2014, Capital Impact withdrew from the partnership, and in March of 2015, the organization, formally organized as a limited liability company, and was converted to a corporation named Village to Village Network, Inc. It serves as a clearinghouse for inter-village communications and provides information to help communities establish and operate their own villages. It further organizes an annual meeting, the National Village Gathering, at which local village officers and staffers may meet those from other villages to share information and experiences.
So, how do we start a village?
- Gather a core group of like-minded people who are willing to work; it’s not something one person can do. This core group is likely to end up forming the initial board of directors as well as doing all the initial marketing and organizing.
- Get information from the VtV Network. The network provides a Village 101 Toolkit, some of which is free and the rest of which requires paying to join the network. You can also reach out to other villages near you to learn more about what has worked best for them.
- Find out what services already exist in your community. There is no point in reinventing the wheel. If your town already provides free exercise classes, for example, your village may not need to organize those. In addition to using the information on available services to find out where the holes are, create a database of existing services you can share with your members.
- Call organizational meetings to gauge the interest in your community and to find out what services and activities people would find useful, as well as to spread the word and recruit volunteers.
- Find out what talent already exists in your organizing group. Once you know what tools are at your disposal, you’ll have a better idea of what talent you’ll need to recruit or pay for. The group will need legal expertise, as well as expertise in accounting, marketing, and other fields.
- Decide what services will be provided and who will provide them. Most villages have members who drive other members to doctors’ offices and stores. Villages typically provide referrals to home repair people and home healthcare services, and many organize classes, lectures, and day trips.
- Create a pool of service providers and negotiate discounts. A village is unlikely to provide home healthcare aides, but sharing information on where to find a good aide or discounts on the services is likely to be valued.
- Create a nonprofit and write a business plan. Villages typically cover 50% of their costs via membership dues and do fundraising or seek grants for the rest.
And, finally, spread the word. Recruit members by sharing information about the services and socializing the village will offer.
For your consideration, invest in a one-year Opportunity Membership with VtV Network. The small fee gives you access to the document library, discussion forum, webinars, toolkits, mentor programs, and other resources. For other tips on starting a village, contact vtvnetwork.org.
Daniel J. Jachimiak, BA, is a Feature Writer/Journalist and Speaker. Dan can be reached at
~ You can have a better life ~