STL Village an LGBT Inclusive Model for Aging in Place Q&A

December 2015 | Madeline Franklin, Executive Director and Jennifer Kovar, Board Co-Chair of STL Village

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“"Diversity and inclusion are core values of STL Village. The organizers of STL Village recognized the importance of planning a Village that reflected the demographics of its footprint that included persons of all ethnic, religious, gender, gender identities, and sexual orientations. "”

What is the Village model?

Madeline: The Village model is a plan for older adults to continue to reside in their own homes in a safe and socially connected manner.  The Village model began in the Beacon Hill neighborhood in Boston MA in 2001 when a group of neighbors decided that they did not want to live in age segregated senior residences.  Recognizing that they needed support systems in place as they aged, these neighbors organized a grassroots membership driven non-profit organization.  They solicited the services of vetted volunteers to assist them with transportation and minor household repairs. 

How did STL Village begin?

Madeline: STL Village, in St. Louis, MO - began when a group of residents of the Central West End neighborhood decided to organize a Village in their community.  An Exploratory Committee was organized and planning for the St. Louis Village began. 

How did you first become involved with STL Village?

Jennifer:  During its exploratory phase, STL Village founders built a relationship with SAGE of PROMO Fund (formally SAGE Metro St. Louis).  Seeing that commitment – the desire to gain competency on LGBT aging and the value they placed on making this the first intentionally LGBT-inclusive aging option in St. Louis – I thought I better get involved in this amazing thing!

Describe why inclusion is important to STL Village?

Madeline: Diversity and inclusion are core values of STL Village.  The organizers of STL Village recognized the importance of planning a Village that reflected the demographics of its footprint that included persons of all ethnic, religious, gender, gender identities, and sexual orientations.  STL Village has been successful in engaging members of the LGBT community in the Village.

Jennifer:  STL Village knows that the only way to effectively serve its whole community is to serve its WHOLE community!  This means that everyone in its (strategically chosen) diverse footprint over the age of 50 should be met with an equally diverse, competent, and caring community.  Because it is a community serving itself, it must represent everyone in it!

How can readers learn more about STL Village and LGBT Inclusion?

Madeline: LGBT older adults can learn more about STL Village through our website, Facebook page, and newsletter.  In addition, STL Village sponsors a number of educational and cultural events that are open to the general public which provide information about the Village.

Jennifer:  Contact us online to see what activities, events, or volunteer opportunities you might like.  You can also call the office at 314-802-0275 to talk to Madeline or one of our volunteer staff.  Madeline sends out a newsletter and an activities calendar via e-mail that are really helpful.  If you have an idea that we haven’t implemented yet, then join us and make it happen!

What steps can older adults take to get involved with a Village in their community or to start a Village?

Madeline: STL Village is a member of the national Village to Village Network that is comprised of 190 villages in operation throughout the country and an additional 160 villages in development.  I would suggest interested persons visit the website of Village to Village Network which has tremendous resource materials to assist with the development of a village. In addition, operating villages are willing to provide developing villages with guidance and support.

Do you see the inclusive Village Model expanding to meet the needs of a growing baby boom generation?

Jennifer:  Yes, undoubtedly.  Every day, 10,000 more people turn 65 years old.  The Age Wave is upon us and we have longer careers, encore careers, family commitments, volunteerism, social activism, health goals, and mortgages!  The village model truly and effectively represents the needs of its community because it is created by and operated by its community.  The village is just a vehicle to coordinate everyone and build that community as it ages together.  We desire to learn, grow, and do more than we ever have before, and all while we learn and respect what makes each of us culturally unique.  That is what aging in community is all about!