With the projection that 20% of the U.S. population will be older than age 65 by 2030, it is no surprise that the Howard County senior population may reach that a decade earlier. In addition to long-time residents who don’t want to leave familiar homes, activities, medical care, friends and family, there is a steady stream of new residents who have moved to the county to be near adult children and enjoy the many benefits of the community.

The Village In Howard (TVIH), a nonprofit membership organization for age 55-plus residents who choose to age in their own homes, has just been launched as the newest resource for older residents.

Community Without Walls

Twelve years ago, a group of people in Beacon Hill, Boston, worked together to create a “village” for older residents who might need additional support and age-related activities as they “aged in place.” The trend has grown nationally so that there are now more than 160 operational “villages,” with another 147 under development.

The Village In Howard has been under development for the last two years and is now accepting members and launching services and activities. It appeals to seniors who want to join together to support and enjoy each other in a community without walls. Howard County has many government, nonprofit and business services for its aging population, and The Village In Howard sees itself as another resource.

Incorporated last summer as a nonprofit human service organization, the village is governed by a board of directors and has many active committees planning its services, operations and events. Members live in their own homes and are connected virtually, utilizing the web site www.thevillageinhoward.org to keep up with the action. A monthly e-mail newsletter provides a look ahead and keeps all apprised of village needs.

Active Participants

Many members are active and already engaged in the community, and so like the idea of helping their fellow village members. Volunteerism is a strong part of the culture, and all are encouraged to give it a try: planting flowers, providing a meal after surgery or a ride to physical therapy, making reminder calls, etc., encompassing members’ wide range of abilities.

Events include ongoing Saturday morning walks and coffee; a lecture by the Howard County Police Dept. on frauds and scams affecting local senior residents; a trip to the Cryptologic Museum, including lunch; a workshop on the concept of “Older or Elder”; learning simple massage; and a drum circle; with book, bridge and sports groups planned for the spring. The activities will be determined by what the members desire, with many led by volunteers. Events are held in public locations around the county.

An Associate member ($150/year) can take part in all the activities, and a Full membership ($350) adds the personalized services offered by member and community volunteers. A vetted list of home contractors, some simple health screenings and field trips to theater, museums and sport events are all in upcoming plans.

Some adult children have “gifted” their parent a membership as a way to say, “I care and want you to remain independent,” while businesses are finding TVIH a useful resource for their aging employees or for workers concerned about older family members.

The Village In Howard is working with existing organizations and becoming part of the network of Howard County human services. With a small, volunteer-staffed office in the Winter Growth building in Harper’s Choice, Columbia, visitors are welcome 10 a.m.–3 p.m. weekdays with their questions and suggestions. Calls are received at 443-367-9043, and the best source of current information is www.thevillageinhoward.org.

Judy Pittman is a member of TVIH’s board of directors. She can be reached at 410-461-11207.