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No birds: Seniors band together to stay put, rather than moving to assisted living community

Published: Sunday, Aug. 18 2013 8:00 a.m. MDT

Seniors are creating virtual "villages" to help provide services right where they live without having to move to an assisted living community.

http://www.vtvnetwork.org

Some seniors, called "snowbirds," long for the day when they can move to a warmer climate. Other seniors do not relish the idea of moving out of their homes when they grow older — and, if they live in colder climates, would rather freeze than leave behind friends and family. Call them "no-birds."

According to an article from LearnVest's Leah Ingram published on Fox News, one retiree, Mary Flournoy, lived in the East Falls neighborhood in Philadelphia and didn't want to retire anywhere else.

"So Flournoy was intrigued when she heard that East Falls was starting a 'virtual retirement community,’ ” Ingram wrote. "The organization — East Falls Village — offered many of the amenities available at a real retirement home, such as regular dinners together, cultural outings and ride services, but allowed residents to stay where they lived. Excited by the possibilities, she signed up, paying her $125 in annual dues to join more than 150 other residents who'd already made the same choice."

PBS NewsHour spoke with Susan McWhinney-Morse who is a member of the "Beacon Hill Village" in Boston.

"When we initially started Beacon Hill Village," McWhinney-Morse told PBS, "there were 11 of us who got together one cold November day with this abstract determination that we're not going anywhere. … We didn't want to have to depend upon our children who might live in the next community, or might live across the country. And so after two years we formed this organization that seemed to fit our needs. And it was at that point we began to understand that maybe we had tapped into a whole movement and that we weren't the only people — that it was becoming perhaps even a worldwide idea that one could stay in one's community."

The idea has become a nationwide movement creating virtual "villages" to help seniors take charge of their future.

"Beacon Hill Village now boasts 400 members, and the concept has spread to other communities across the country," PBS reported.

The Village to Village Network website helps seniors "establish and effectively manage aging in community organizations initiated and inspired by their members."

The villages are run by their members and utilize volunteers and paid staff. The groups negotiate discounts and coordinate services such as transportation, wellness programs, repairs and social activities, the website says.

The network claims more than 100 villages are currently in operation in the U.S. and other nations and that 120 are "in development."

According to Ingram's article, cost is a major reason for creating these villages. The average annual cost to be a member of a village is about $450 for a single person or $600 for a household. Assisted living can cost $20,000 a year.

EMAIL: mdegroote@deseretnews.com, Twitter: @degroote, Facebook: facebook.com/madegroote

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