Do people in your community have the passion and drive to do more to help their neighbors as they grow older? There’s not just one way to create a membership-driven, volunteer-based “village” that provides basic services to help keep adults in their homes longer; that’s because each region has different needs. But there are some first steps you can take to see if the model is right for your area.
To learn more about available services for seniors in Maine, mark your calendar for the free Senior Expo, slated for Friday, May 22, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Cross Insurance Center, located at 515 Main St., Bangor. The BDN is partnering with the Eastern Area Agency on Aging to produce the event.
The following list of first steps, to see if the village model is right for your community, comes from the Village to Village Network, which helps communities across the country start and manage their grassroots efforts to help seniors age in place. Villages may coordinate transportation for older adults, provide opportunities for social gatherings and assist with home improvements.
1. Who will help make the village a reality? Gather interested people in your area — people with experience in business, marketing, fundraising and human resources, and most of all those with a passion for helping older adults stay in their homes as long as possible. Ask your talented friends. Hold community meetings to find the right people.
2. Research how other areas have started and sustained villages. Consider calling the Village to Village Network. Beef up your knowledge of aging and livable communities by reading plenty of reports and studies.
3. Figure out demographics. Use the 2010 Census to find how out many people are aged 60 and older in your community. How many are 60 to 75 — and more likely to be active members and volunteers? How many are older than 75 and more likely to need services? To help you determine your fee structure, what are typical income levels?
4. What are the resources already available in your community for older adults? Write an asset map.
5. Talk with social service and local government agencies to get their feedback and ideas for how to work together.
6. Get direct feedback from the community. Create a survey. Organize focus groups. Write a market analysis to determine the community’s need for and interest in a village.
7. Continue holding community meetings to determine the geographic area you’ll serve. Do the people in those areas want a village? Is it feasible?
8. When you decide to develop a village, write an initial mission statement, begin to identify the services you’ll offer, and begin to develop your first-year budget and fundraising plan. Choose a name that will permit you to grow in the future. Set up a website.
9. Determine the business and governance structure that makes the most sense for what you want to do. Will you rely entirely on volunteers or have some paid staff? Will you become part of an organization or your own organization?
10. Know this is just the beginning! There’s much more to learn and do after the exploratory phase is complete, of course, but running a successful program will depend on the initial groundwork.