Some thoughts on the “Village Concept” to help us age in place

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Several years ago the neighbors in the Beacon Hill neighborhood in Boston, MA came together to form Beacon Hill Village an organization that would help them remain in their homes for as long as possible.  This unique grassroots approach grabbed headlines and presented a solution for “Aging in Place” that I had not seen in my career.

In addition to including articles in Guide to Retirement Living SourceBook about this new approach I became interested in helping the elders in my community of Reston, VA replicate this concept.  I shared my enthusiasm with many, including someone my age who responded with excitement about this being replicated in Reston.   When I questioned whether she had an elder living with her, she shared that she was a single mom and just about everything I talked about could be helpful to her.

This conversation helped opened my eyes to how important it is to have an ageless focus to this concept.  I hope that we look back at our efforts and we see how neighbors came together to support the elders, but a result ends up being a vehicle for the elders to support the rest of the neighborhood through purposeful projects and engagement.

I am pleased to report that things are moving forward on this project in Reston with the support of several leading non-profit and government agencies as well as a team of motivated resident volunteers. On Oct. 9th we are hosting a Community Forum that will feature a keynote from Robert E. Simon (pictured at right), the 96-year-old founder of Reston.  Take a look at the founding principals Simon had when he created Reston back in1962.

  • That the widest choice of opportunities be made available for the full use of leisure time. This means that the New Town should provide a wide range of cultural and recreational facilities as well as an environment for privacy.
  • That it be possible for anyone to remain in a single neighborhood throughout his life, uprooting being neither inevitable nor always desirable. By providing the fullest range of housing styles and prices — from high-rise efficiencies to 6-bedroom townhouses and detached houses — housing needs can be met at a variety of income levels and at different stages of family life. This kind of mixture permits residents to remain rooted in the community if they so choose — as their particular housing needs change. As a by-product, this also results in the heterogeneity that spells a lively and varied community.
  • That the importance and dignity of each individual be the focal point for all planning, and take precedence for large-scale concepts.
  • That the people be able to live and work in the same community.
  • That commercial, cultural and recreational facilities be made available to the residents from the outset of the development — not years later.
  • That beauty — structural and natural — is a necessity of the good life and should be fostered.
  • Since Reston is being developed from private enterprise, in order to be completed as conceived it must also, of course, be a financial success.

I cant think of a better place to test a new way to bring community together and celebrate elders!

1 Comment

  • @Dan

    Mt. Vernon at Home is a speaking on the panel on Oct. 9th in Reston – in addition to representatives from Community Without Walls from Princeton, NJ; Burning Tree Village in Montgomery County, MD; and Partners in Care in Anne Arundel County, MD.

    This is an exciting time for community development that I think all of us who have been involved in these models will look back on and be amazed at the positive benefits.

    Prior to Simon developing Reston the model of and ideal “planned community” was Levittown . . . I am exciting to see how this movement can launch dramatic change as well.

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