The National Virtual Village Gathering: Celebrating 20 Years of the Village Movement

The National Virtual Village Gathering: Celebrating 20 Years of the Village Movement

Posted on December 08, 2022 by Cathy Lieblich, President of Neighbors Network & UPLIFT Board Member, Orange County
As the Board President of Neighbors Network and a Board Member of UPLIFT Florida Network, I attended the Village to Village Network (VtV)’s National Virtual Village Gathering from October 11 to October 13, 2022. It was great to be with my fellow board members and representatives from villages around the country, albeit virtually. I learned that there are currently 322 villages in 44 states and the District of Columbia (DC). I attended diverse sessions covering various topics such as How to Start a Village, RunMyVillage/Club Express, Helpful Village, VtV Network’s Village Impact Project, LGBTQ Inclusion, StrongerMemory (a Brain Health program), ViVo (a live and interactive online strength training program), SilverNest (an online Home Sharing Program), Creative Aging, and Leveraging Resources: Collaborations between Villages and Area Agencies on Aging. I’d like to share highlights from these sessions:

How to Start a Village
  • Kingdom Care Senior Village (KCSV) is a village in Washington, DC, that serves a mostly African American community. Kathy Pointer, the volunteer executive director, led a session focused on how to start a village. Since there were already villages in DC, the DC government provided funding to help start a village in an African American community. The organizers partnered with a church in the community to start the village and recruited volunteers. To create a village, Kathy stressed that the focus needs to be on the community you intend to serve and what they say their needs are. She suggested answering the following questions:
    • Why do you want to form a village? What type of village do you want to be?
    • What community(ies) will you serve? Suggest focusing on one community at first, e.g., one senior building. Do not expand beyond your capacity to serve.
    • What are the needs of the seniors in your community? Conduct a survey.
    • What initial services will you offer? Start with a few and add as interest is identified, and you can develop the capacity to manage it.
    • Do you have the resources to reach potential members? How will you do so?
    • What will the initial “staffing” structure be?
    • Will you become a 501c3 or partner with one to start it and have them be your fiscal agent?
    • Have you identified and contacted potential partners such as providers of senior services, the area agency on aging, the county office on aging, the local AARP chapter, someone to donate space for an office, the local newspaper to help get the word out, etc.?
    • Have you joined VTV Network to learn from existing villages and network with others? I would add for those living in Florida, have you contacted UPLIFT Florida Network to see how they can help?

Village Impact Project: Moving Toward Measuring Our Mission
  • The VtV Network is conducting a pilot project with 10% of all villages using Helpful Village, Run My Village/Club Express, or another online platform to quantify the impact and outcomes of village services. This does not include activities and programs and the impact of building community. The data is collected directly from the software. The Village Impact Project also included a taxonomy project that developed a common taxonomy for village services. Interestingly, they found the following:
    1. A 10% increase in the number of members between October 2021 and September 2022.
    2. Transportation represents 47% of all services provided.
  • There are plans to recruit additional village participants. They are in conversation with Run My Village to explore how it might work to include their users.
  • They are working with Rutgers University to apply for a grant to hold focus groups about how villages and villagers feel about being studied.

LGBTQ Inclusion Session
  • It was shared that up to 3 million American seniors identify as LGBTQ. With this in mind, all villages should have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) plan.
  • Village marketing materials should be LGBTQ friendly. This includes applications to join a village, taking into consideration using “Gender Identity” vs. “Gender,” and asking for pronouns and the name and relationship of the person/people they may live with.
  • The DC Department of Aging and Community Living awarded a grant to Capitol Hill Village to fund a staff person to do LGBTQ outreach. An LGBTQ Inclusion Best Practices Toolkit for Villages has been developed by the DC Villages Committee on Safe Spaces for LGBTQ Older Adults. View the toolkit here.

Creative Aging Session
  • Gene Cohen, MD, Ph.D., the first director of the Center on Aging for the National Institute on Mental Health, authored a book called The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life which provided the findings of evidence-based research that demonstrated that older adults in creative expressions groups improved in all measures of physical, mental, and social health. It resulted in needing to take less medication, fewer doctor visits, elevated mood, and reduced depression and loneliness.
  • Pamela Saunders from Georgetown University and Caroline Edasis from Mather Lifeways have written a white paper on what they learned from the Creative Aging Innovation Forums they hosted in early 2022. To request a copy, contact Pamela at

Leveraging Resources: Collaborations between Villages and Area Agencies on Aging session
  • This new VtV Network Handbook was launched at the National Virtual Village Gathering with a session summarizing its contents. Villages and Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) share a mission to provide innovative programs and services that benefit older adults who wish to remain independent with continued connections to their communities, so collaboration between the two makes sense. Several AAAs and villages have collaborated to provide older adults with increased access to support services and more options for social interaction and engagement, and the Handbook covers these “case studies.”
  • Village services do not compete with, but supplement and complement, AAA services. Villages can prevent or delay the need for professional services, as many older adults do not require formalized care. With their volunteer-driven “neighbor helping neighbor” model, villages are a cost-effective avenue to expand support to more older adults, provide special programs, and connect with hard-to-reach populations, which is of value to AAAs. The benefits of collaborating with AAAs include enhancing the village’s sustainability, visibility, and operations and affirming the value of villages as effective partners in the aging services network.

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