An oft-quoted African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise
a child.” But truly, all ages benefit when community members care
about and look out for one another. This concept fuels an idea called
the Village Movement, a predominantly volunteer-driven effort designed
to help seniors remain in their homes and communities, while preserving
their independence and connectedness.
More than 200 villages exist across the country and each has its own character
and approach, based on the needs and desires of the people it serves.
But all have the common goal of helping members age in a place of their
choosing and remain closely connected with their communities.
The general model involves members receiving a certain number of support
services such as transportation, help with minor household tasks and opportunities
to socialize, all made possible through the help of volunteers who provide
these services. Members pay an annual fee to support administrative expenses,
including background checks and bonding of volunteers.
The South Bay boasts two villages: Palos Verdes Peninsula Village and Torrance-headquartered
South Bay Village. Nearby Westside Pacific Village serves El Segundo and
communities to the north.
SOUTH BAY VILLAGE: A FOCUS ON SERVICES
Executive director Ges Davis and others launched South Bay Village in May
2015. While serving on Torrance’s Commission on Aging, Davis heard
a speaker discuss the Village concept.
“It was like a light bulb going off. I realized we’ve got to
do this,” she says. “I’ve always felt we, as a population,
do not do enough for our seniors.” South Bay Village focuses on
services, including providing transportation to doctors’ appointments,
errands and other destinations, doing minor household repairs and gardening
and making friendly visits to keep members engaged. They also provide
referrals to commercial service providers, many of which offer their services
at discounted rates. The first social gathering took place earlier this
year, and Davis expects to see more events in the future. As of June of
this year, South Bay Village had 46 members and 47 active volunteers.
“We have been super busy,” says Davis. “We’ve completed
over 2,500 assignments since our founding.”
PALOS VERDES PENINSULA VILLAGE: A BALANCE OF SOCIAL AND SERVICE
Palos Verdes Peninsula Village launched in March 2016 and has 101 members
and 58 volunteers as of June 2017.
“Our founder, Sherry May, felt there needed to be a 50-50 ratio of
service and stimulation,” says executive director Colleen Cotter.
“We really address the whole person—mind and body—so
members can remain healthy.”
In addition to offering transportation, help with minor household repairs
and computer/ technology assistance, Palos Verdes Peninsula Village maintains
a strong social emphasis. Activities include weekly walking groups, a
book club, a monthly men’s gathering and even monthly salons addressing
A REWARDING WAY TO GIVE
Both Palos Verdes Peninsula and South Bay Villages seek more volunteers
who can sign up for only the jobs they wish to do, with no requirements
as to the frequency or amount of time they give. Many are early retirees
who may eventually need the services they now provide. “Others,”
says Davis, “have had older people in their lives that they’ve
either lost or who are ill. They know, ‘If I don’t help, who
Regardless of their motivation, most find it immensely satisfying. “Volunteers
and members start talking and become friends. They’ll often pair
themselves on subsequent assignments,” says Davis. “That’s
the point of the village,” adds Cotter, “being of service
to others when you can be and knowing you’ll receive help when you
Both Cotter and Davis emphasize the importance of the interaction for their members.
“Seniors get very isolated. Their friends all pass away. They find
it secure to stay at home, but it’s not good for them,” says Davis.
In fact, isolation can cause health problems. According to a recent article in
The New York Times, researchers are finding mounting evidence linking loneliness to physical
illness as well as functional and cognitive decline. It eclipses even
obesity as a predictor of early death.
That’s one of the reasons Torrance Memorial Medical Center endorses
the concept and works closely with Palos Verdes Peninsula and South Bay
Villages. The medical center provided meeting space to South Bay Village
when it was just starting up, and social workers regularly refer patients
to both Villages.
"Torrance Memorial Medical Center has been wonderful,” says
Cotter. “They believe in what we’re doing and know we’re
helping to keep their members out of the hospital.”
South Bay Village office is located at 22939 Hawthorne Boulevard, Suite
106, Torrance. 424-271-2304.
Palos Verdes Peninsula Village office is housed with Peninsula Seniors
at 916 Silver Spur Road, Suite 302, Rolling Hills Estates. 310-991-3324.
To learn about other Village locations, visit Vtvnetwork.org.