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Why Consider Starting a Village in your Community?

Posted on November 05, 2022 by Cathy Lieblich, President of Neighbors Network & UPLIFT Board Member, Orange County
Villages are self-governing, caring communities that enable older adults to remain in the home and communities they love. Do you want to live on your terms as you age? Are you interested in helping your older neighbors do so? Then, consider talking to your friends, family, and community members about what a village is and whether they'd be interested in working with you to make it a reality in your community.

"Supported by volunteers, villages are grassroots, community-based, nonprofit organizations that operate on a philosophy of peer-to-peer reciprocity—neighbors helping neighbors. Volunteers, many of whom are village members, provide various support services, including transportation, light home maintenance, tech support, and friendly visits. Villages also coordinate social, educational, and health/wellness activities that promote connections and healthy living and reduce social isolation. To leverage resources in serving older adults, Villages collaborate with community partners and local service providers, and some have established collaborative relationships with other Villages." (Village to Village Network, Leveraging Resources Handbook-Collaborations between Villages and Area Agencies on Aging, October 2022).

Villages have played an essential role for their members during the COVID-19 pandemic, with volunteers making check-in calls, delivering groceries, running errands, and providing transportation to essential healthcare appointments, including vaccinations. The members of Neighbors Network, a village in the Orlando area, were called and asked about what being a member during COVID has meant to them. Responses included,
  • "Having the transportation to get where I need to go, so my daughter doesn't have to do it, has been great. Participating in the book club via Zoom has been wonderful too. It keeps me going – I'm reading a lot."
  • "Tremendous, a Godsend, a miracle because I have no family."
  • "It's always nice to be remembered. Knowing someone is thinking of you is gratifying. It's comforting to have someone reach out to you."
I asked Neighbors Network's Founder, Annette Kelly, what made her decide to start a village in our community. Here's what she said: "During my professional life in various aspects of community health and my personal family caregiving experience, I became acutely aware of the ordinary challenges that develop as we grow older. These challenges in themselves are very basic and may not be alarming, but I saw them as health risks. Attending a National Conference on Aging in 2011, I heard the founders of Beacon Hill Village in Boston share their journey of creating their Village. They talked about exactly what I saw in Central Florida, and I WAS HOOKED! I believed then, and continue to believe, that as we age, our need for connection to and engagement in the community is essential for good physical and mental health. I believe that one's personal vitality and life outlook are positively affected by having an available support system and that this connection to others enriches our lives. Living independently is a goal of most older adults, and being part of a 'village' makes independence a reality."

If you think you might be interested in starting a village, UPLIFT can help! Contact cathy@neighborsnetworkfl.org or Pam Mahoney at p-baron@comcast.net.

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