Dear Savvy Senior

I recently read an article about a new community-based elder care program called “villages” that provide in-home services to seniors that helps them remain living in their own home. My husband and I are retiring in a few years and are interested in starting up a program like that in our small town. What can you tell us?

Retiring Homebodies

Dear Homebodies,

According to an AARP survey, nearly nine out of 10 Americans over the age of 60 want to live out their lives in their own home. The program you’re asking about can help.

Aging at Home

For seniors faced with the prospect of leaving their home for a retirement community or assisted living facility — because driving or household chores have become too difficult or dangerous — there’s a new kind of elder care program/concept that can help them stay put.

It’s called “villages,” and they can work like a hotel concierge where seniors are one phone call away from a wide variety of services that helps them remain living in their own home. (While there are currently only a dozen or so of these programs in the U.S., the village concept is growing rapidly as more people learn about it and because these programs can be started by individual community members and neighborhood groups as well as businesses and municipalities.)

The services offered come from local businesses, community resources and volunteers and typically include: transportation; errand running; grocery shopping; home delivered meals; house-hold chores; home repairs; home-health services; and a variety of social and cultural activities at local churches, schools or community centers.

To receive these services seniors become a village member and pay yearly dues. The membership fees cover the concierge service and connections to reliable, pre-screened services, along with some basic services such as information assistance, rides from volunteers, and group activities like exercise classes and lectures.

Services provided by for-profit businesses, which may include home repairs, household chores and home health care cost extra (on top of their membership dues).

However these are generally discounted from what members would pay on their own.

To find out if your community offers a program similar to this, call your Area Agency on Aging (call 800-677-1116 to get your local number). If there’s not one, encourage them to get one started.

A Good Role Model

Beacon Hill Village in Boston, which pioneered this home care concept about six years ago, is the best model on how to develop a program for your community. To help, they offer a how-to manual to guide you through the details of creating a business plan, surveying your community needs, marketing and recruiting service providers.

The cost for the manual is $300 for nonprofits and neighborhood groups and $500 for for-profits and municipalities.

To order a copy, visit or call 617-723-9713.

In the meantime, here are some tips to help you get started:

• Form a committee: Get a group of 10 or so neighbors with diverse skills and backgrounds who are interested in supporting or developing the project.

• Do some research: Find out the number of elderly residents living in your neighborhood or community, their average income, etc. You can use census information to find this information.

• Know your customers: Do a survey to find out what kinds of services people will want and what they will pay for them.

• Search for services: Contact key local businesses and health providers (from hospitals and home care agencies to repair services) to gauge their interest in working with your group. Look for volunteer help too.

• Make a plan: Draw up a business plan, estimating membership income and costs.

• Fundraise: You’ll need some money to get started. Interested residents may help as well as prospective businesses providing services.


Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” books.

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