Villages: How a Promising Model Can Address Long-Term Challenges

Members | August 07, 2012

Social service agencies could help “Villages” improve their financial security and technical expertise, according to a new study.

“Villages” offer a promising option to address the service needs of middle-class older adults looking for a way to age in their own homes and communities. But these member-owned organizations could have difficulty serving the needs of lower income populations and sustaining themselves financially over the long term.

Those are the conclusions of a team of researchers who published the first scholarly study of the Village movement in the Aug. 2012 issue of The Gerontologist.

Villages could improve their sustainability by affiliating with social service agencies, say the researchers. Those agencies could provide access to more secure financing sources and technical assistance. The authors also recommend that future research studies assess how Villages might adapt their current operating model in order to serve a more diverse population of older adults.

Member-Led Villages Provide a Variety of Services

Villages are owned and led by the older adults who live in their own homes and want to age in place. They provide a variety of services to members who pay an annual fee. Those services might include:

  • Information and referral.
  • Discounts on home and community-based services. 
  • Recommendations about affordable and reliable home contractors. 
  • Access to volunteers who provide a variety of informal supports.

Study Results: Information about Funding and Members

Researchers surveyed 30 of the 42 Villages that were fully operational at the time of their study. In general, study findings fell into 4 categories:

  • Funding: Most Villages operate autonomously. They rely primarily on member fees and donations for funding. 
  • Member participation: Members are highly involved in developing and overseeing their village. Members provide services to other members in almost half of the Villages. 
  • Member demographics: Most Village members are non-Hispanic whites who are over age 65 and own their own homes. 
  • Care needs: Village members have fewer care needs than most of the country’s older adults.