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Are virtual villages the future for elder care?

Is a virtual community a way for the elderly to remain in their homes?
Is a virtual community a way for the elderly to remain in their homes?
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An innovative community concept that started in Boston ten years ago is catching on quickly across the country and in Southern California. They're simply called villages, but they're not physically in one place. They are virtual communities that enable aging folks the option of continuing to live in their homes - rather than move into elder-care facilities.

A recent survey of villages defined them as: "self-governing, grassroots community-based organizations that coordinate access to a variety of supportive services to promote aging in place, social integration, health and well-being." By paying monthly fees, members can call upon a wide range of services provided by either fellow members or volunteers. Sociologists have begun surveying and studying the villages to measure how the idea is changing lives. The goal isn't just to run shopping errands, but to avoid social isolation and stimulate the lives of older people.

Would you consider this as an option for yourself or your family? Right now, most villages skew primarily caucasian and upper income. How can it broaden to other communities? Is there a risk in giving some seniors a false sense of security - when they really ought to find 24-hour care?

Andrew Scharlach, Eugene and Rose Kleiner Professor of Aging, School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley; Scharlach studies the village network and co-authored the Rutgers 2012 National Overview of Villages

Mike Babcock, Board of Directors, Pasadena Village