Friday, July 08, 2011

How To Form an Aging in Place Group

I was recently involved in a discussion about the best way to form an Aging in Place or a "Village" organization. Nonprofits that enable seniors to stay in their homes as they age are growing all over the country. Many are following the Beacon Hill Village (BHV) model. BHV charges dues, has a board and a staff, and provides direct services and referrals to services, as well as ongoing social events. This is a very popular model that is gaining ground rapidly and is large enough to have annual national meetings and an online group to join (Village-to-Village).

But when we started Aging in Place in Darien (now Aging in Place+Gallivant) we took a different approach. 
We began as a pilot program sponsored by The Community Fund of Darien, which is like a United Way. Our focus was to provide information and referrals to all of the agencies that are already in place and ready to help seniors remain independent in the community and their own homes. We did surveys and focus groups to determine what needs were being met -- and not being met for our local seniors. We then hosted a summit of service providers and enabled all of them to learn about one another and how we could tap their services. We looked to find ways to fill in the gaps, and from our summit attendees, we created committees to handle the top areas of need: transportation, handyman services, ways to end isolation and to get the word out about what's available.

Having excellent ties to agencies and service providers has helped establish a really useful organization that is making a true difference for seniors in our community of Darien, Connecticut. The ties also helped us find a really great board. We became independent this year and merged with the local senior transportation provider, Gallivant -- making us stronger and in a position to better meet one of the top needs. Learn more about us at: www.aginginplacegallivant.org.

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