TRENDING NOW: THE VILLAGE MOVEMENT
2016 NATIONAL SURVEY OF U.S. VILLAGES: KEY FINDINGS
By Jessica Yu
The newly-released 2016 National Survey of US Villages [LINK} from Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging surveyed 155 villages in the United States and found rapid growth and development in the Village Movement. An estimated 25,000 older adults belong to villages in the United States. More villages are developing in response to the demand for communities that promote independence and avoid unnecessary disruption of friendship and community connections while at the same time offering companionship, support, and meaningful engagement. Self-determination is key. Villages are often created and governed by older adults themselves, providing services to one another with an average members-to- volunteers ratio of 1.9 to 1.
Accelerating Growth and High Retention
From the first villages established in 2002, the number grew to 35 by 2010, and to 155 by the beginning of 2016. The fastest growth of the village movement occurred between 2010-2013, at a quick rate of 44%. On average, a village had 146 members in 2016 through recruitment of approximately 36 new members. Most villages had excellent retention rates in the prior year, with 38% of villages retaining over 90% of their members and 42% retaining 81–90%.
Broad Recruitment Efforts
Most villages reported efforts to recruit under-represented segments of their communities. By 2016 almost three-quarters of villages offered discounted membership, opening up village membership to lower-income members. In addition, over two-thirds of villages made additional efforts to increase diversity to include:
- Younger members (30%)
- Ethnic minorities (25%)
- Sexual minorities (13%)
- Male members (10%)
Recruitment strategies to build more diverse and inclusive villages included developing a wider selection of activities or services, building diverse boards and volunteer bases, and engaging with community groups.
The villages in the study offered several common services and report growing interest in technology assistance, rising 15% from 2012 to 2016. Common services included:
- Social events (provided by 95% of villages)
- Transportation (94%)
- Educational events (90%)
- Companionship (90%)
- Technology assistance (88%)
- Health promotion programs (79%)
Villages also commonly collaborate with outside organizations, including social service agencies(32%), hospitals or health clinics (30%), and religious institutions (26%).
The Future of Villages
Villages feel that they are fulfilling a previously unmet need in their communities. The national survey found a high degree of optimism about the future of US villages. In 2016, villages were asked to rank their confidence that their village would still be in operation 10 years in the future. On a scale from 0 to 100, where 0 means “not at all confident” and 100 means “absolutely certain,” the average confidence level was 77. The most commonly cited source of confidence were:
- Responding to unmet member and community needs
- Strong support from the community
- Strong commitment of the members
- Strong volunteer program, and
- Financial sustainability
As a leading voice in the village movement, Ashby Village is active in the support and development of new villages and to sharing innovations and best practices to support continued growth and development of the village model.
Graham, Carrie L., PhD MGS, Andrew E. Scharlach, PhD, Roscoe Nicholson, MA, and Catherine O’Brien, PhD. 2016 National Survey of US Villages. Rep. Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, 2017. Web. 15 Apr. 2017, matherlifewaysinstituteonaging.com.