With a Little Help from my Friends. . . Villages in Fairfax County
Written by Grace Lynch, originally published in the Golden Gazette
“Oh I get by with a little help from my friends . . . Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends”
For many boomers, maybe most, these sweet, soulful lyrics sung by Ringo Starr so many years ago on the Sgt. Pepper’s album, ring as true now as they did then.
Every age has its challenges and every challenge is somewhat less daunting with a little help from your friends.
This simple truth was recognized by a group of older adults living in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood back in 2002. This is when they launched the first “village” to provide services, social opportunities, and that intangible, “sense of community,” for their neighborhood.
Word quickly spread about the Beacon Hill Village. According to the Village to Village Network, a group that began in 2010 to advance the village movement, there are now over 200 functioning villages and 150 in development nationwide.
So, what exactly is a village? The Network describes them as “membership-based, member-driven and self-governing” organizations that provide services to help members “create successful aging of their own design.”
One of the first tasks of a new village is to determine needs and geographical borders. Another early task is to decide what services to offer. Services vary from village to village depending on what members decide they want. Villages may provide transportation, grocery delivery, phone calls for check-ins, small household repairs, and meals to sick neighbors.
In addition, villages often provide social engagement opportunities, including book clubs, exercise groups, outings, and guest lecturers.
The funding of villages also varies. Some have annual membership fees which contribute to the cost of administration. Many do not have fees and offer services provided by neighborhood volunteers. Some villages have made arrangement for group discounts with local home service providers.
Fairfax County’s Villages
Currently there are 12 villages or Neighbor 2 Neighbor groups (the county uses both these terms to describe these organizations) in Fairfax County with more developing all the time.
The county recognizes the importance of villages. According to Tanya Disselkoen, a long term Care program development analyst with the Health Department, “The County is currently promoting Neighbors to Neighbors (N2N)/village initiatives to “create connected communities that support aging in place.”
This includes providing guidance to those seeking to organize a village in their neighborhood. Disselkoen encourages all interested in joining or developing a village to visit the county’s N2N webpage at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/health/neighbor and contact her office at 703-246-8962, TTY 711 or N2N@fairfaxcounty.gov
The Golden Gazette will be profiling county village organizations as well as other local groups that provide “aging-in-place” support throughout 2019.
Current Fairfax County Villages
For contact information or to learn more about organizing a village/ N2N program, go to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/health/neighbor, email N2N@fairfaxcounty.gov or call 703-246-8962.
This story is provided by AARP Virginia. Visit the AARP Virginia page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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