MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – As they get older, most of our parents would like to stay in their own homes as long as possible.
The village movement is helping them do just that — and for very little money. The communities aren’t real villages; they’re more like clubs seniors set up for themselves.
The village in Minneapolis is an example of how the communities can work for their members, in good times and in bad.
It’s Happy Hour in the Minneapolis Warehouse District, but in a part of town associated with the young and trendy, this Happy Hour has a gray tint.
The attendees all belong to Mill City Commons. Members pay $1,050 a year for couples, $650 for a single person.
While most are in their 70s and 80s, there is no age requirement. And while they can live anywhere, nearly all Mill City Commons members live, like Suzanne Joyce, in downtown Minneapolis condos or apartments.
“They are like an extended family,” she said.
Seven years ago, Suzanne Joyce, who is now 81, persuaded her husband, Bill, to join.
“He didn’t think we necessarily needed it,” she said.
Members do bond over the fun times, but the goal of the 140 villages across the country is to create a community that helps seniors stay in their own homes, even in the toughest of times.
Bill was already on dialysis and suffering from cancer.
“On Aug. 8 he fell and broke his hip, and that was the beginning of a major problem for him,” his wife said. “I have four children, and all four live outside the Twin Cities.”
The extended family of Mill City Commons rallied around the Joyces.
“Mill City Commons helped with the driving when he couldn’t do it himself,” Suzanne said.
Commons members also helped with everything else, from providing meals to running errands to comforting Suzanne and her visiting children.
Sonia Cairns, 75, is one of the members who helped.
“Mill City organized the Caring Bridge site,” Cairns said. “It became easy to select which days when you would bring food, select certain days to drive.”
“It made a big difference,” Suzanne said. “Physically, I could not do it alone.”
In large part because of the community’s help, her husband was able to have hospice care at home for four weeks. He died Nov. 4.
Suzanne said it made all the difference in the world.
“It was huge,” she said. “I couldn’t think of doing it an other way.”
Seeing how much help there was for Bill and Suzanne made Sonia and other members realize their village will be there for them.
“It was comforting, it was calming,” she said. “While we were trying to meet their needs, they were meeting our needs as well.”
Linnea Tweed is the sole full-time staffer of Mill City Commons, which has grown from 60 members when it was founded in 2009 to 170 members now. She said they help people stay in their homes for longer.
“We provide peace of mind,” Tweed said.
It was Tweed who coordinated the volunteers to help the Joyces.
She also coordinates the activities, from happy hours to speakers to exercise classes.
“Each village is different,” she said.
Tweed also puts together a members-only list of 100 caregivers, attorneys, handymen and other service providers who have gotten good reviews from fellow members.
“It’s kind of like an Angie’s list,” she said. “It’s one of the resources for helping connect members to resources they would need.”
Three months after losing her husband, Suzanne decided to stay in Minneapolis instead of moving away to be near her children.
“Right now I am very happy here, and I think Mill City has made the difference,” she said.
Her four kids are on board, too.
“They were more comfortable with me being here alone knowing I had this organization I could call on,” she said.
There are 120 more villages are in the works across the country. Each is set up differently.
The only other village in Minnesota besides Mill City is in Spring Grove.