Village Members Create Supportive Communities

Racial diversity represented in people hands together on top of each other in unity team cooperation concept.

There’s an exciting do-it-yourself movement across the country driven by older people creating supportive communities, called villages. They provide choices for people to stay independent, active, and connected, and to live where they choose. Two hundred virtual villages for elders have sprung up since 2002—with 150 more in development.

We have three villages in the Seattle area. Wider Horizons serves residents of Central Seattle, NEST (Northeast Seattle Together) connects people who live in northeast Seattle, and PNA Village—a program of the Phinney Neighborhood Association—serves people living in northwest Seattle. We are also seeing new villages forming around the region, such as the Eastside Neighbors Network in Bellevue, Northwest Neighbors Network in North King and South Snohomish Counties and the Westside Neighbors Network in West Seattle.

All villages have a common purpose—creating a community to connect members to each other, help them stay engaged in the life of their neighborhoods and communities, and offer links to services that members need to remain living comfortably in their own homes, apartments, and condos. Many of the services are provided by village members—or other volunteers—at no cost.

While villages differ in terms of membership fees, ages included, and activities offered, these are some of the common characteristics:

  1. Grassroots—villages are grassroots, membership organizations. Most are self-governing and have working boards composed of members.
  2. Self-Supporting—villages are self-supporting, non profits, typically sustained by membership fees, donations and sponsorships from individuals and organizations in their geographic service area.
  3. Social and Educational—villages offer many social and educational opportunities to help people stay active and engaged, mentally and physically.
  4. Referral System—villages consolidate services, using resources already present in the community. Many of these are just a phone call away. A village, in effect, creates for each of its members a highly personalized referral system. Village members need call only a single number to access a world of information about high quality volunteer or professional services.
  5. Volunteer First Approach—most villages have a “volunteer first” approach—that is, volunteers are looked to first to see if a request can be fulfilled.

For more detailed information, visit the national Village-to-Village website or contact:

Jeanne Marie Thomas guides and supports North East Seattle Together (NEST), a member-driven organization, whose vision and mission is to live in a community where no one has to grow older alone while providing neighbors choices for staying independent, active and connected.

Originally appeared on AgeWise King County (July 2017)