What do Villages Have in Common with CCRCs?

Members | February 04, 2015

LeadingAge members focus their work on “expanding the world of possibilities for aging.” That mission is equally applicable to organizations participating in the “Village” movement. Bruce Rosenthal, vice president of corporate partnerships at LeadingAge, explores the unlimited possibilities that present themselves when LeadingAge members and Villages work together.

LeadingAge members focus their work on the task of “expanding the world of possibilities for aging.” That mission is equally applicable to organizations participating in the “Village” movement.

Villages are grassroots membership organizations that use volunteers and local service providers to help their members age in the place. There are currently more than 150 Villages, according to the Village to Village Network. More than 120 Villages are now in development.

It may not appear at first glance that small, up-and-coming Villages, with their volunteer labor and relatively inexpensive monthly fees, have much in common with larger, well-established continuing care retirement communities (CCRC).

Actually, the opposite is true.

CCRCs and Villages share the same basic mission. They both seek to provide support and services to older adults in a place they call home. That shared mission opens worlds of possibility for partnerships that can help both organizations meet their mutual goal.

Creating a True Continuum of Care

CCRCs need not view Villages as competitors, or assume that older adults must decide between using the services provided by a CCRC or the services provided by a Village.

Instead, there are numerous opportunities for CCRCs and Villages to offer different levels and types of services, at different times, to the same population of older adults.

How does this work?

I’ve seen cases where older adults take advantage of Village services while they are living in an independent CCRC apartment.

Some CCRC residents serve as volunteers at a local Village. They drive Village members to the doctor, do their grocery shopping, or provide other one-on-one services that allow Village members to remain at home. A number of CCRCs even help Villages recruit residents as volunteers.

Of course, many Village members live in the homes they’ve occupied for most of their adult lives. But when their needs increase, these Village members may decide to move to a CCRC. After that move, new CCRC residents may choose to maintain their Village membership so they can continue receiving familiar services and enjoying the social connections they made through the Village.

Meeting Challenges through Partnerships 

Because they are small, grassroots, volunteer organizations, Villages face myriad challenges, including: 

  • Finding adequate funding.
  • Recruiting members and volunteers.
  • Meeting the health care needs of their members.
  • Supporting family caregivers.
  • Ensuring their sustainability.

As they work to address these challenges, Villages are learning that partnerships are often the key to providing older adults with seamless access to the services and supports they need. In my mind, no partnership could be as effective, or as mutually beneficial, as the partnership between Villages and CCRCs.

What a CCRC Partnership Can Offer Villages

Partnering with a CCRC has the potential to bring Villages many benefits, including:

Administrative support: A CCRC partner might let a local Village use its office or meeting space. The CCRC could lend support staff, including student interns, to help Villages carry out administrative tasks. The CCRC might also offer to print the Village’s monthly newsletter, or maintain a database of Village members.

Some Villages receive more sophisticated help from their CCRC partners. For example, one CCRC authorized its Human Resources department to help a Village recruit an executive director. CCRC staff helped write the job description, advertised the position, interviewed candidates, and presented finalists to the Village’s board.

Strategic planning assistance: Villages often need help conducting needs assessments in their local community and designing packages of services that meet the needs of local residents. CCRCs have loaned their own staff members to these efforts, or hired consultants to help a Village board carry out assessments and develop strategic plans.

Less formally, a retirement community’s staff, board members or residents can provide a great service by offering free advice to the Village’s board. CCRC residents might participate in focus groups that help the Village gauge the interests and needs of the local community. Or, the CCRC’s staff might advise the Village on how it can best meet the needs of members whose needs change over time.

Expanded Village benefits: A CCRC could enhance a Village’s service package by allowing Village members to use its wellness or fitness center, or attend its planned programs and activities.

What a Village Partnership Can Offer a CCRC

The CCRC-Village partnership isn’t a 1-way street. Rather, CCRCs have many things to gain by partnering with Villages:

Social accountability: Not-for-profit organizations have an obligation to provide a community benefit based on their tax status. Collaborating with a Village is one way to do that.

New service lines: Villages can provide needed services to older adults who are living independently on a CCRC campus. For example, the Village might become the “provider of choice” for certain home-based services that a retirement community is not interested in providing. Village volunteers could help a CCRC prevent hospital readmissions by checking in daily and providing assistance to independent residents after they return from the hospital. Village volunteers can also offer visiting and companionship services to CCRC residents who can’t get out due to frailty or who don’t enjoy socializing in large groups.

New business opportunities: By the same token, CCRCs could become the “provider of choice” for a local Village. The Village might identify certain activities—like transportation or wellness/fitness programs—that the CCRC could make available to Village members. Village members who become familiar with the CCRC through these partnership activities might be more likely to choose the CCRC, its assisted living community or its nursing home if their needs increase and a move is warranted.

CCRCs and Villages: Stronger Together

Villages truly are a movement. They are grass roots. They drive change. And, I believe, we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg of creativity and innovation that can emerge from them.

Many CCRCs are beginning to recognize the opportunities that partnerships with Villages can bring. Creating collaborations that focus on meeting the needs of older adults can only make both organizations stronger.