We all know it supposedly takes a village to raise a child, but it may also take a village to be able to age with dignity and independence in your own home. Although it started a decade ago, the Village to Village Network now is expanding across the country to provide the services that elderly people need to be able to remain in their own homes.

Village to Village recently received a $1.3 million grant from the Archstone Foundation to support or create villages in communities in California. Villages now exist in 55 communities nationwide and another 120 are in development. Archstone is a grant-making organization whose mission is to help society prepare for an aging population.

The idea of creating a Village is for neighbors to help neighbors, but on a little more formal basis. Villages are created when one or two people in a community realize assistance is needed,  or that they can provide assistance, for an elderly person to remain in their home rather than being forced to move to get the help they need.

The idea started in Boston ten years ago with Beacon Hill Village when a group of neighbors decided they needed some services that no one was providing. Beacon Hill eventually teamed up with NCB Capital Impact, a not-for-profit organization that works with communities and addresses issues such as long-tem care.

The Village idea started to grow and has now spread nationwide. Villages are community efforts run by volunteers who operate on grants or fundraising events as not-for profit organizations.  Each is self-governing and membership driven.

The Village to Village Network provides guidance in setting up the villages, but each is different.

"Each community has different needs, and the individual village is based on what that community decides is not being provided," says Candace Baldwin, senior policy advisor of NCB Capital Impact.

The services can include anything the community wants and the village can be based in a retirement-living development or any neighborhood.

"One older woman living alone wanted a dog, but she was not capable of walking a dog regularly, so her Village helped arrange dog walking so she could have a companion," Baldwin said. Other services range from light housekeeping, to transportation, to grocery shopping to yard work. Connections are often established with community colleges for life-long learning.

If the service costs money, the senior is responsible for paying for it, but many contractors will work for reduced rates for Villages.  Homeowners also have the advantage of having a list of vetted contractors to select from, Baldwin said.