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AARP Research Explores Innovative DC “Villages”

It is clear from AARP research on the local level that the vast majority of us would like to remain in our homes and neighborhoods as we age—not go to a retirement community or nursing home. The question is how to make aging at home safer and more comfortable?

If you ask organizers in several District communities, they’d tell you that it takes a Village. By that, they mean a grassroots membership organization, modeled after Beacon Hill Village in Boston, through which neighbors help neighbors access support and services to age in place. That could mean anything from a ride to the doctor, home repair referrals, or someone to take in your mail when you’re on vacation all the way to 24-7 home care. Some Villages also offer social opportunities from chess clubs to yoga classes to lectures and cultural outings.

Since October 2007, six Villages have opened their doors in DC—more than in any city nationwide other than San Francisco. Five of them agreed to participate in an AARP DC study released on October 26, 2009 at the Village to Village Network Symposium in Washington, DC.

The goal of “Neighbors Helping Neighbors: A Qualitative Study of Villages Operating in the District of Columbia” is to provide District Villages the opportunity to learn from one another and to share their best practices, challenges and advice with organizers across the country regarding:

  • Starting a new Village
  • Building a strong board of directors
  • Recruiting members
  • Retaining members
  • Operating your Village
  • Fundraising
  • Managing your volunteers
  • Communicating with members

The findings were based on written questionnaires, individual interviews and focus group discussion with the Board Members, Staff, Members and Volunteers of these organizations in August and September 2009.

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