Yes, last week my wife and I gave each other a 50th wedding anniversary gift: membership in one of the most successful ‘villages’ in the U.S., Capitol Hill Village (CHV).
What is a village? Simply, it is a neighborhood-based nonprofit organization that offers local residents the means and confidence to live to the fullest in their own homes as they grow older.
CHV is modeled after the granddaddy of villages, Beacon Hill Village in Boston. As more boomers age, many look to ‘villages’ as the most practical way to extend living in their own homes. The Washington metropolitan area boasts more than a dozen community-based villages, each with its own governance and services structure.
CHV began in October 2007. I was among the founders but dropped out until now. Why, you ask? Partly denial that I am getting older and partly a feeling that I didn’t need the services that the Village provides. Wrong on both counts! Besides offering services like snow shoveling, gardening, pet care, shopping, and transportation to medical appointments (provided by its legion of volunteers), the Village is staffed with two full-time licensed geriatric social workers who assist members with hospital discharge, long-term care choices, and other in-home services that volunteers don’t provide.
Village members have access to a list of ‘vetted vendors.’ These businesses are expected to provide members with high quality products and services and may offer discounts and expedited services. Members rate their experience with these vendors to ensure that other members will also receive high quality and fairly priced products and services. This reduces the risk of exploitation.
CHV has 360 members, 210 of whom volunteer. Volunteers provide 85% of the Village’s services at no cost to members. Annual dues amount to $800 per family and $530 for individuals. The Village offers a greatly reduced annual fee for families and individuals with low incomes.
It’s not all business. CHV provides a range of social and cultural programs, including discounted theater tickets, trips, tours, and health and wellness programs.
But the best part is becoming friends with contemporaries who share my desire to remain in my own home and age with grace and dignity.