I know several women in their 80s who are in this position. Some can no longer drive, one can’t see well enough to do her bookkeeping or taxes, some can’t push the vacuum cleaner around or take care of their beloved gardens. Several of them are well off financially and others live on smallish fixed incomes. The women who are well off can afford to hire professional gardeners and bookkeepers and pay for taxis and delivery services. Others are not so fortunate. Not surprisingly in today’s economy, no matter how well they budget, prioritize and get creative, the less financially fortunate women often can’t cover all of their expenses.
One of my neighbors has lived alone since her husband of 60 years ago passed away several years ago. She managed well for a while and then when she became too frail to take care of the big house and yard, her family stepped in. Several of her married children live in the area. They send their teenagers over to help Grandma every week. They clean, garden, run errands, cook and keep her company. She gets the help she needs plus visits with her beloved grandkids.
I had a next-door neighbor who was independent to the core and managed on her own. She had grown up in San Francisco when SF was a rootin’ tootin’, wild and wooly town. She was married for several years, had several kids, and worked very hard. When her marriage fell apart, she raised her kids and several step-kids and worked full time. As kids do, they grew up, moved away and built lives of their own. When she retired, she bought a tiny house in the mountains, raised chickens and vegetables and lived frugally on her tiny pension. As her strength faded, she did what she could, but gradually, more and more was left undone. She had no family to help her and by then all of her friends neighbors had passed away. Some of her new neighbors helped from time to time and so did a local neighbor group, but she needed help weekly and she received it now and then. There’s that gap again, between what’s available and what’s really needed.
The last 35 years have seen an ongoing reduction of free and low-cost senior services. A few community or charitable groups offer services, but there’s a real need for workable solutions here.
My sister-in-law told me about The Village to Village Network (VtVN). It helps seniors live in their homes for as long as possible by providing access to low cost and free services. People our age must think this a good idea, because Villages have been popping up all over the country. Here’s the interactive map that shows where they are.
Members pay a very reasonable yearly fee that covers admin costs and then they get substantial discounts from quality service providers of all kinds including doctors, dentists, plumbers, gardeners, etc. Each Village negotiates discounts for the services their members need. There are also volunteers available who provide reliable, free help with chores like driving, housework and gardening. Service providers and volunteers are interviewed and well-vetted before working with the group. Members who receive their services are interviewed after a job is completed to be sure providers do an excellent job.
As the parent organization, the Village to Village Network (VtVN) provides expert training and guidance to people starting and running their own local Villages. Villages are non-profit to allow them to focus on providing quality services instead of on maximizing corporate profits at the expense of quality service.
My sister-in-law wanted a Village in her town, so she and a core group of others have set one up. There’s one in my area and there may already be one in yours. Take a look at the map and the explanation of how it all works on the website. This looks like a very promising and useful model for supporting people as they age. I, for one, am glad to see it flourishing.
Is this something you’re interested in? Let us know about your experiences with VtVN or another Village Movement organization.