VILLAGE CONNECTIONS SUMMARY
Village Connections is an urban, community based non-profit organization that empowers members to lead an active and engaged lifestyle in their own homes as they age. By providing a network of high quality person centered resources for members’ evolving needs, this grass roots organization offers information and referrals to cost effective services and activities designed to enhance members’ health and wellness, support their social, educational, and cultural interests, and foster member to member volunteer support.
The Village Connections in Columbus, Ohio mobilizes residents of historic German Village and its surrounding urban neighborhoods who wish to stay in their homes as long as possible as they age. The Village Connections also activates neighborhood volunteers who assist members with transportation and minor household chores and screens vendors who provide discounted home maintenance, home care, and other services to the membership.
The Village Connections also develops strategic civic, corporate, educational, and health alliances to deliver services and programs, to stretch resources, and to rigorously evaluate its program outcomes. Volunteers and vendors are carefully vetted, a senior services directory is maintained for members and existing community programs are utilized whenever available. Across Village services and programs, intergenerational contact, education, safety and security, and socialization are encouraged.
The Village Connections, spearheaded by long term German Village residents, is an innovative program, the first of its type in central Ohio. However, the village’s strategic plan and initial budget are informed by a systematic review of the best practices of a growing number of other successful villages. The Ohio Department of Aging provided important support by linking the Village Connections founders to several peer village founders in other Ohio cities. With considerable help from the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging and a membership that gave founders access to programs of the national Village to Village Network, the members of the German Village Society’s Long Range Planning Committee extensively researched the best practices of successful villages across the United States.
Village Connection services are provided to members residing in German Village and the contiguous urban neighborhoods of Merion Village, Schumacher Place, Brewery District and Downtown Columbus (South of Interstate 670). All members receiving services are at least 50 years of age and pay annual dues of $500 / per person or $ 750 annually for a 2 person household. As funds allow, annual dues are reduced to $ 100 for members with documented financial need. Because active villages have not supported all operating expenses with membership income, fundraising is important for village sustainability.
The success of Village Connections depends on a sustained and satisfied membership, delivery of quality, affordable services, maintenance of strategic partnerships, successful fundraising, careful selection and oversight of vendors, and the recruitment, training, and retention of many volunteers.
In 2012, the oldest of the Baby Boomer cohort turned 65 and many more boomers are quickly approaching senior citizen status. Even though many individuals would like to avoid facing the reality of aging, communities must prepare for the 72 million, approximately one out of every five people in the U.S., who will be at least 65 years old by 2030.
According to a 2011 AARP report, these seniors are facing retirement challenges their parents did not. They have more debt and fewer pensions, and many have no savings. Moreover, following the 2008 recession, their housing values have decreased, interest rates are low, and government and non-profit resources are dwindling. There is also significant uncertainty about the future of Medicare and the Affordable Health Care for America Act. In 2010, the Kaiser Foundation reported that only 10% of seniors have long term care insurance. In addition to the economic challenges, many aging boomers do not have the support traditionally provided by extended families, since fewer family members live near one another. In an AARP survey of older adults, 90% strongly wanted to stay in their own homes and communities. Current seniors, as well as those who will soon be seniors, want to "age in place”.
Village Connections is part of a movement of Villages that has developed across the country to help achieve that goal. While each Village is different, all focus on providing a rich array of services and programs. Villages also represent a welcome, cost-effective way for citizens to take personal responsibility during an era of declining public resources. The best known "Village" is Beacon Hill Village, started in Boston in 2001. Beacon Hill Village has now grown to more than 300 members, serves four neighborhood communities and has served as a catalyst for the national Village Movement.
The inspiration that led to a groundswell of support for Village Connections came from long term residents of German Village and the German Village Society’s Long Range Planning Committee, with support from the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging . Many long term German Village residents told Village founders that they strongly want to age in their historic home in their “special” neighborhood. They also want to stay connected, engaged and healthy.
In February 2010 one such resident asked the German Village Society to consider establishing an aging in place community program modeled after the successful Beacon Hill Village (Boston, Massachusetts). Nationwide, more than 65 Villages are operating and over 120 are in various planning stages. Many Villages have been recognized as exemplary community collaborations helping older Americans remain in their homes as they age, improve the quality of their lives, and save money in the process.
The German Village Society’s long range planning committee carefully researched the national Village movement, reviewed local census data, surveyed residents, conducted roundtable discussions with interested neighbors, and consulted with Village directors in similar communities. During project planning, two of the Capitol Hill (Washington, D.C.) Village founders visited German Village as consultants. To establish best practices, planners studied the business models and operations of a number of existing villages. The group also joined the national Village to Village network and participated in statewide Village development activities organized by the Ohio Department on Aging.
In February 2012, the German Village Society’s trustees extended support by agreeing to act as the 501 (c)(3) fiscal agent for pilot grants and donations while the Village Connections secures its own tax exempt status. The Society has also graciously provided web support and office and meeting space.
Village Connections Service Area
Long term German Village residents who wanted to stay in their historic neighborhood worked in the framework of the German Village Society to spark the idea for the Village Connections. After researching the German Village neighborhood demographics in the 2010 U. S. Census and the practices of several successful villages, founders decided to invite the participation of residents living in several communities immediately adjacent to German Village.
By locating the administrative core of organization in German Village, and including the contiguous neighborhoods in the membership service area, the Village Connections seeks to include an urban geographic area where there are sufficient numbers of seniors who wish to stay in their homes in the core of Columbus, Ohio.
This urban area depicted in the map that follows is bounded by interstate I -670 on the north and state route 104 to the south. It encompasses German Village, the Brewery District, Schumacher Place, Merion Village and the downtown Columbus neighborhoods. Collectively, this is a contiguous, urban area that has a large and growing senior population where it is felt that quality volunteer and vendor services can be reasonably supported.
German Village, Columbus’ premiere downtown neighborhood is one of the most outstanding historic restorations in the world. Settled by German immigrants in the early to mid19th century, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 30, 1974, becoming the largest privately-funded preservation district on the list. In 2007, it was made a Preserve America Community by the White House. Today it is 233 acres of “living” history where the old meets the new and the result is a vibrant and charming community. In 2011, the American Planning Association designated German Village as a Top 10 Great Neighborhood, singling it out for architecture, parks, and engaged citizens.
The Schumacher Place neighborhood is directly east of German Village. The civic association notes that the area is named for the Schumacher family, who owned and operated a dairy business there in the 1800s. Today, the Schumacher Place neighborhood contains a mix of two-story wood-frame and brick houses and is bounded in three directions by commercial properties.
Merion Village, located directly south of German Village, is another historic neighborhood with a diverse population. During the mid-19th century, the neighborhood saw an influx of German as well as Irish, Italian and Hungarian immigrants, and later people from Appalachia and the southern U.S., as South Columbus grew into an industrial hub. Home to historic houses, churches, schools, Merion Village remains a vibrant and special place. Today, many of the people residing in the area have strong family ties dating back to the early 1900s.
The Brewery District is a neighborhood located just west of German Village. The area has a history stretching nearly 200 years. The first brewery was opened in 1836 and the neighborhood changed dramatically after prohibition in 1919. Recently, there has been much redevelopment with numerous restaurants, bars, apartments, and a large grocery store.
Downtown Columbus, the central business district, is north of German Village. Downtown as a whole encompasses all the area inside the inner belt and is home to the State Capitol and most of the largest buildings. Over 11,000 residents live in this neighborhood. Most live in high rise condominiums and apartments.