Generation X helps older people age at home
And it’s potentially life-changing, even before retirement. The village of Dr. Sandefur is in a subdivision of 2,500 residents and is not distributed across any neighborhood or across communities.
dr Sandefur was an assistant professor of biology at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke when he moved to the sub-department in April 2020 with his wife Brittany Marino Sandefur and their two daughters. Fearrington Village, which serves the subdivision’s mostly over-65-year-old residents without charging a fee (fundraising and donations cover its costs), wasn’t the main attraction — a rental home in a tight pandemic housing market it was.
dr Sandefur began distance learning almost immediately after moving in. In the extra time at home, he volunteered for Fearrington Cares, changing lightbulbs for neighbors and clearing heavy plants from porches. Then he discovered that as in other villages, volunteers were encouraged to offer their own skills. With his above-average computer skills, he was soon recovering logins and setting up Hulu accounts. “People need help with technical things,” he said. “I definitely feel needed. I stay pretty busy.”
From the outset, villages have made a commitment to keeping minds active, bodies healthy and spirits intact, said Ms McWhinney-Morse. Her generation and those following them no longer see nursing homes as inevitable, she said, “We’re not as conscious or afraid of it, oh, you’re going to fall or forget your meds.”
This does not mean that villages meet all needs. Many were founded by white, middle-class neighbors and are still in predominantly white, middle-class communities (an Asian-American village in Oakland, California was successful; one targeting Latino members is under development in Winter Park, Fla). Ms. Sullivan said efforts to diversify are underway. One is to bring the movement into settings with large ethnic and socioeconomic outreach, such as churches.
Once founded, villages do not always prosper. When they close, money is often the culprit. “Villages continue to have an uphill battle with financial stability,” Ms. Sullivan said. Since 2012, 29 member villages have disbanded. Of these, six have been closed since the pandemic began. Some cited money as the reason; other stalled membership growth. Some have been closed due to conflicts over vaccination status. Some villages that started to develop decided to wait until after the pandemic.