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Beacon Hill Village

74 Joy St., Boston, Massachusetts 02114

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Naturally Occurring Retirement Community of Beacon Hill Village Breaks the Retirement Community Mold

In one of Boston's oldest neighborhoods, in the middle of brick row houses, narrow streets, decorative iron work, and gas lamps, there is a village. Some might call it a NORC or a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. Residents age 50 and better call it Beacon Hill Village.

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Old colonial Boston was never built or designed for an aging population. Its row houses can have a daunting layout with a bathroom upstairs, a kitchen downstairs, and lots of climbing in between. Its brick sidewalks can be hard to navigate in the summer and hazardous in the winter. It is, however, a place that many call home and where many want to stay.

Started by a group of Beacon Hill citizens who did not want to be driven by developers into a cookie cutter retirement community, the village is a grass-roots membership-driven organization. Participation is open to anyone age 50 and older living in Boston's core (neighborhoods like Beacon Hill or Back Bay). Yearly dues sustain the village, but they are reasonable and can also subsidized.

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What is the organization's philosophy? "It takes a village to support successful aging." Beacon Hill has a corps of enthusiastic volunteers as well as a paid staff that runs a "village office." The programs and services provided by the village help members stay in their homes and stay a part of the wider community.

Membership benefits include help with transportation, arranging a home caregiver, finding a case manager or a patient advocate. The village tries to meet its members' needs as they arise. They've found handymen, computer and tax experts, electricians, even reduced and free medical care. Volunteer neighbors might pick up a prescription, run an errand, or just stop by for coffee and conversation. The village hosts a long list of classes, programs, and events. There are walks along the Charles, cooking classes, evenings at the symphony or opera, fitness classes, film festivals, and trips to Tanglewood or Martha's Vineyard.

Founded in 1999, Beacon Hill Village enrolled its first neighbors in 2002. It's a successful business model that has provided hundreds of people with an alternative to nursing homes and long-term care facilities. It is one of the first formal elder villages, and has been one of the sparks to a nationwide movement.

Don't want to give up your community? Want to be part of the village movement? You can start with the Village to Village Network. The network has answers to questions like - How did Beacon Hill do it? How did they find the startup money? How do we ensure that our village will be a stable, long-term business? How do we establish a 501(c) (3)? How do we create a business plan?

Start-up villages can find a toolkit with core principles, business models, and documents like membership agreements and sample by-laws. Established villages can participate in forums, an annual conference, webinars, and a national exchange. The Village to Village Network even has a grant program that promotes good business practices and sustainability.

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Visit www.vtvnetwork.org and www.beaconhillvillage.org for more information.

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