Just a generation ago, most seniors assumed that as they grew older they would go to an assisted living facility or nursing home. But with the boomers, that’s beginning to change. Seniors today are embracing a variety of new and fun innovations-- everything from dating sites to Zumba classes and the increasingly popular senior villages.

For an annual fee, senior villages will coordinate services to help seniors live independently. When these villages first sprang up the services were mostly practical. Transportation was a huge one-- many seniors can’t drive and most US communities aren’t “walkable.” So the villages would assist their members in getting to grocery stores and medical appointments. They would also help with needs around the house-- everything from changing a light bulb to simple home repairs. But now many villages have begun to meet social and cultural needs as well. They’ll coordinate everything from book clubs to fun trips to cancer support groups.

The first senior village was started in Boston in 2002, and they’ve been growing in popularity ever since. In 2010 there were only 50 in the US. At the start of 2014, there are 124. The growth has been especially noticeable in Washington, which went from 5 in 2010 to 40 today. Now there’s even a national umbrella organization, the Village to Village Network, although each village remains unique and independent, meeting the needs of residents in that particular area. As some villagers like to say, “If you’ve seen one village, you’ve seen one village.”

Currently, most villages are located in prosperous areas, as they require people with time to volunteer and seniors who can afford the membership fees. But grants are being awarded to organizations in low income areas to start villages there too, so hopefully senior villages will soon be available to more and more seniors across the nation.