What is this Village Thing? Neighborhood Villages & The Gift of a Long Healthy Life

2016.04.28 DC People and Places  04443
Gail Kohn, Age-Friendly DC Coordinator and Molly Singer, Executive Director, Capitol Hill Village, Washington, DC USA – 2016.04.28 DC People and Places 04443 (View on Flickr.com)

Washington, DC, leads the nation in something else awesome – senior (neighborhood) villages. I kept thinking of all the other groups who could benefit from villages…

A few people have been educating me about the Village “Thing.” (It’s not a place, it’s a concept – The Pasadena Village)

How does a village work?

Members continue to live in their homes. The can get together for parties, picnics, happy hours, and visits to local theaters, music and art venues. Volunteers offer free services that can range from rides to and from medical appointments, prescription pickups, yard clean-ups, and simple handyman repairs, assistance with grocery shopping, changing light bulbs in ceiling fixtures, and reading to the visually impaired. Senior Villages | dcoa

Okay, but, is this just about aging?

The description above sounds a lot like TaskRabbit + a social bond. Aging is not the only cause of a shallow social support system. What about an LGBTQ village? A Latino village?

In Washington’s innovativeness, it might be interesting for people to experience a neighborhood Village before they become seniors.

Here are some links that I’ve put together from materials Molly provided for me.

Comment away on this post.

And PS, I can’t believe I get to live here 🙂 .

Addendum: Dupont Circle Village at Washington, DC’s 2016 17th Street Festival


Check out some research on LGBT seniors and aging-in-place conducted by metro-Denver community partners and the KPCO Institute for Health Research!

1. Published: “Assessing Capacity for Providing Culturally Competent Services for LGBT Older Adults” J Gerontol Soc Work. 2014 ; 57(0): 305–321.

2. Just accepted for publication by Journal of Homosexuality: “Perspectives of LGBTQ Older Adults on Aging in Place: A Qualitative Investigation” by Boggs, Jennifer M., Portz, Jennifer D., King, Diane K., et.al. Will be available on-line (hopefully soon) ahead of print.


Thanks for commenting, and for the fine research you are doing at Kaiser Permanente Colorado (@KPColorado) Institute for Health Research.

I read article #1 above (Assessing Capacity for Providing Culturally Competent Services to LGBT Older Adults):

“The findings from these data and conversations with community stakeholders and policy makers have confirmed that the majority of organizations lack appropriate focus on the specific needs of the LGBT aging population.”

Given this situation, do you think Villages are an alternative especially when they are populated with people of the same lived experience?

I did a search of villages in Colorado and found this list.

Also I’m interested in how your team came to specialize in LGBTQ health, glad to see it, and glad to see your work getting accepted,


Hi Ted, thanks for booking marking our publication “Assessing Capacity for Providing Culturally Competent Care to LGBT Older Adults”! I sent your question “do you think Villages are an alternative especially when they are populated with people of the same lived experience?” to the lead author of the article, Jennifer Dickman Portz, PhD, MSW to give her first chance to reply. Here is what Jenny said: “Great to hear people care about this issue and are talking about it! Regarding his first question, I am not aging-in-place expert, but I do see villages as an excellent option for creating intentional and specific services to keep people productively aging in their homes (if that’s where they want to be). I worry about the costs of such models, and that for the LGBT community, NORCs will likely be more common (meaning that LGBT groups will age in a particular “LGBT-friendly” neighborhood… naturally creating a community of LGBT older adults). At this time, I am not sure there is incentive or momentum to strategically create LGBT villages, rather they will pop-up as NORCs across the country. When these NORCs are created (like Capitol Hill), village models may play a vital role in developing appropriate health and social services, but must recognize that the community/neighborhood itself was not intentionally/originally developed to keep older people in their homes. I also worry about the segregation of villages… if we have a LGBT village, and a Latino village, and a white affluent village… are we simply creating more silos? Clearly our county needs to do a better job of creating safe, culturally-responsive, and diverse communities, regardless of age group.”
Lots of food for thought. I agree with Jenny and what she says about NORCs ties into your second question about how our team came to specialize in LGBTQ health. I’ll answer that in a second reply since this one is already pretty long!


Thank you again – I didn’t even know what a NORC was until you commented, which shows how much I still need to learn. For readers they are naturally occurring retirement communities. My takeaway is that the two concepts are connected and not exclusive, do I have that right? So it’s maybe to be aware and supportive of them as they exist to promote wellness and well being. I’m thinking of this from a medical education perspective as well,


Ted, you are correct that NORCs and Village concepts are connected in that they are both options for seniors to age with other seniors and they mitigate isolation and increase social connections and support. However there are some big differences between them too. I recently came across this descriptive piece which I think does a nice job highlighting various aging-in-place choices, including Villages and NORCS. http://www.secondjourney.org/itin/12_Sum/12Sum_Poor.htm
I’ll keep you posted on our forthcoming publications!


Hi Ted, You asked how our “team” came to specialize in LGBTQ health. The LGBTQ aging research project started as a Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) project. The seed for the project was planted by the Director of the Senior Solutions Center at Jewish Family Services of Colorado (http://www.jewishfamilyservice.org/), Cathy Grimm, LCSW. Cathy (now deceased, a great loss) had developed the first NORCs in Colorado as part of the JFS senior programming. A great friend and ally of the LGBTQ community she wondered whether LGBTQ seniors, who tended to be isolated and without kids, churches, or other supports, might benefit from the resources offered by NORCs. Cathy brought the question to the Denver GLBT Commission, on which I was a commissioner. My role at the Institute for Health Research is Community Research Liaison, focused on engaging communities (LGBTQ included) and researchers in CBPR. Another Commissioner was a doctor at Denver Health who had a few dollars he was able to contribute to start a small bit of research into what resources were available to LGBTQ seniors. The KPCO Institute for Health Research, Denver Health, Jewish Family Services, the GLBT Center of Colorado (The Center) and an intern from Denver University all came together to write a CPBR grant (http://www.ucdenver.edu/research/CCTSI/funding/CommunityEngagementPilotProgram/Pages/default.aspx) and we grew as a partnership from there! Our partnerships name was GLBT Seniors Using Supports to Age In Place or GLBT SUSTAIN! FYI – we kept the name GLBT rather than LGBT because seniors of the generation aging in place now, and the senior community members in our partnership were most comfortable with the older terms “Gay” or GLBT.
While we didn’t end up developing a NORC per say, the learnings from our research were adopted by the Center, which implemented the Capitol Hill Care Link https://capitolhillcarelink.org/ . Another great outcome is that because of the connection between the Center and KPCO, the Center is now certified to provide Silver Sneakers classes. We think it may be the only LGBTQ community center that is Silver Sneakers certified! This project is a great example of what happens when community and researchers come together as equal partners, for the good of the community. Anyone can feel free to contact me if you want to learn more [email protected] Thanks for asking!


What a great story of community engagement which you are continuing here in the social media space. Again, I had no idea that KPColorado IHR was doing this work. It makes me happy to know, and I will mention it to others working in the field. If you will let me know about the second paper I will post on it here as well. PS whenever in DC you and team are invited to your KP Center for Total Health :),


Ted Eytan, MD