The TinkerToy Effect

The National Village to Village Movement

The Messiah Lifeways Connections program turns one year old this February and continues to grow and develop into something very special for its members stretching from Carlisle to Hershey. But a concept like Connections, though new to Central Pennsylvania, has actually been around since 2001. The Connections program is part of national movement called the Village to Village Network. Initially started by a group of aging neighbors in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, members of this “village model” made it possible for fellow seniors to stay in the community and their homes for as long as possible, a primary goal shared by most retirees and older adults.

As the idea of “aging in place” gains momentum particularly for baby-boomers, the introduction of new services and concepts to making this a reality is vital. Options like the Connections program adds another layer of support and complements the traditional aging in place provisions and services. Coupling it with assistance from family and friends or hiring home-health aides, modifying one’s home or purchasing adaptive equipment can create a safer and more enriching life at home. For others it has less to do with receiving support or assistance, but rather it serves as an opportunity for them to collaborate, support, and socialize with others in and around their community. These members volunteer their time, energy, and vision to for the betterment of the group and, if they need help in the future, other members will reciprocate when the time comes.

The Village Model Gets National Recognition

Recently the Village Model concept got some great exposure through NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Nightly News featured a story about Williams’ in-laws living in Connecticut that belong to a group just like Messiah Lifeways Connections called Staying Put in New Canaan.”

Like the group here in Central Pennsylvania, Staying Put also connects its local seniors to a variety of practical resources along with social networking opportunities to help support its members. This idea of networking or “connecting” members is certainly nothing new. It harkens back to “the way things used to be.” It’s a reinvented notion of “neighbor helping neighbor” but in more formal and structured way according to Geli Losch, Director of the Connections Program. She goes on to say, “the number of volunteers helping, vendors working, and programs and events happening continues to rise. Members meet regularly to further enhance the program as it has evolved and grown during our first year.” It’s impact and value caught the attention of Holy Spirit Health System and PinnacleHealth System who became our first two community partners and founding sponsors last year.


The TinkerToy Concept

For some people, the Village to Village concept can be a bit hard to grasp. The ideas of members being part of a virtual village or network sometimes need a visual representation. Ms. Losch recalls a guiding group meeting where a member compared being a part of Connections was like being a part of a tinkertoy set, where pieces differ in length, color, and shape, but could still bond with each other, support each other, and ultimately build something unique and beautiful. This was such a powerful image that Connections has used the idea to help people understand and embrace the concept.

If you would like to learn more about the Messiah Lifeways Connections program or become a member go to messiahlifeways.org/connections or call 717.591.7223. If you’re interested in finding out if there’s a village near you or you’d like to join your local group, go to www.vtvnetwork.org.

Matthew J. Gallardo

Matthew J. Gallardo

Matt is the Director of Community Engagement and Coaching at Messiah Lifeways. He brings nearly 20 years of experience in counseling, advocating, and guiding older adults and caregivers through many of life’s tough decisions. His diverse background of working in hospital and rehabilitation settings, community services, and senior housing gives him the breadth and depth of knowledge to provide unique solutions, opportunities, and help individuals proactively plan for the future. He serves as the Lifeways Coach and as a writer, blogger, podcaster, and speaker for Messiah Lifeways, located in Mechanicsburg, PA.

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