Village Communities for an aging society

By Don MacGillivray


The Village concept is about creating interdependent communities for those that prefer living in their homes and neighborhoods rather than moving to retirement communities.

The model is a successful, cost-effective way to age-in-place and its mission is to build resilient multi-generational communities, develop a network of exceptional service providers, and ensure that members are able to live at home safely and healthfully within a friendly community of neighbors.

The idea is to build strong communities through social activities with neighbors and to assist others through volunteering.

The Villages maintain a diverse community to helps people remain active and have more control of their lives. As we age, we won’t necessarily retire from our jobs and the community concept reflects the desire of older Americans to stay active through work, education, social activities, and having fun for as long as possible. The burden of aging parents on the extended family is reduced by providing alternative systems of support.

The Eastside Village PDX was founded in the fall of 2015 and became the first active Village here. Eastside enrolled over fifty members in its first year with a healthy number of volunteers, a positive bank balance, and an energetic Governing Council elected from the membership.

There is a smooth running office and a variety of events and activities each month for the participating members. The organization is for adults of all ages from all over the city who value being part of a community in the area east of the Willamette River out to SE 122nd Ave.

Although the organization is most likely to attract the older generation that both need help and can help their neighbors in return, others are welcome to join if they appreciate the concept of friendly contribution and participation.

Eastside Village PDX offers “full-service” and “social” memberships on both an annual or monthly basis for a reasonable fee. The membership funding goes to the support of the activities and administration of an organization heavily supported by volunteer members.

Villages offer plenty of opportunities to socialize –– whether it’s group exercises down the street with neighbors, outings to museums or movies, or potluck dinners with friends. Activities like book clubs, wellness activities and educational programs allow folks to get to know each other and build social relationships.

Other activities have included: happy hour socials; walks around various Portland neighborhoods; craft nights such as knitting with conversation; and seasonal visits to local produce farms.

The Village can buy theater tickets collectively or contract with service providers and these consolidated group services save everyone money.

Eastside Village PDX provides members with a list of preferred businesses and services. At this time the following types include: shopping, housekeeping, auto care, interior and exterior painting, pet care, computer repair, handyman assistance and twenty additional services.

Members can call a central number for any kind of help. It might be transportation to the grocery store or doctor, the name of a plumber, care-giving agency, acupuncturist, computer tutor, home contractor, dog walker, or home delivery company.

Because there are several hundred members, vendors find it an attractive market for their services.

Some events are listed as “registration recommended” due to their popularity or the limited capacity of a venue. Many of the events take place at TaborSpace, part of the Mount Tabor Presbyterian Church on SE Belmont St. Other events are in the homes of the members.

Records from the 2010 Census indicate there were more than 190,000 people over the age of 65 living in the Portland metro area and by 2030 this number is expected to double.

The reality is that the over 50 population needs care and attention that is increasingly difficult to provide. If all of these people wanted to move into assisted living facilities there would not be enough room for them. In addition, up to 75 percent of these seniors would not have savings enough to afford the monthly costs.

Older Americans don’t like a house requiring regular upkeep or the feeling of isolation living in the suburbs. Many want to be within walking distance of shops, entertainment, and public transportation.

Villagers live in their own home or apartment and obtain affordable, vetted services, and opportunities for social engagement.

Many single people whether divorced, widowed, or never-married may choose to live together and share their lives with each other. The Golden Girls model allows women (and men) to share a home with their friends.

There are seven community Villages that cover about eighty percent of the counties of Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, and Washington’s Clark county supported by the umbrella organization, Village Northwest; a not-for-profit entity that serves as an advocate, developer, fundraiser, administrator and financial adviser for the Network of Villages in various stages of organization.

Growing quickly in popularity, the model will become even more popular in coming years as aging in place becomes more attractive and necessary.

The City of Portland, Multnomah County, the State of Oregon, Portland State University, and Elders in Action all support the Village concept through their policies and programs such as Oregon Project Independence.

Core members and others are needed in the development of new ideas for the variety of interesting events and activities to ensure a lively and active Village.

Eastside Village PDX holds monthly information sessions on the 3rd Saturday of every month at 10 am. They can be contacted at or by calling 503.866.0571. 

Village Communities for an aging society

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