It Takes a Village to Serve Elders

Mom's 90th Birthday  

Many seniors want to do everything they can to stay in their homes as they get older. But often they need help to handle various responsibilities including getting to medical appointments, shopping, socializing with friends, preparing meals, and managing things around the house.

They usually have two choices to get these services. First they can rely on family members to help them. This is often difficult if their children are working or are not in the immediate area. Second they can hire aides to come to the home. But this can be very expensive. Aides often cost $20 an hour or more and many seniors just can’t afford them.

But a new alternative is emerging. It is a volunteer nonprofit organization created by a community to allow neighbors to help other neighbors. Each senior pays a fee to become part of the network. Fees vary by community and services offered . They range from $175 to $900 a year. Community members volunteer to provide most of the services. Discounted fees are available to people with lower incomes.

Beacon Hill in Boston was probably one of the first neighborhoods to offer such a program. Beacon Hill Village was founded in 2001.( www.beaconhillvillage.org) in 2001

A group of friends in the neighborhood started to talk. What if they banded together and created a network of like-minded people who were aging, but who knew they didn’t want to go to a nursing home? They could help one another when they needed it, recommend plumbers and doctors and home-care aides to each other, and schedule social events so no one would be isolated at home. The network would mean they wouldn’t have to be a burden to their children, and they wouldn’t have to go to a nursing home, either.

Services offered to members include:

  • Referrals to discounted, vetted providers for everything from dog walkers to plumbers
  • A volunteer to assist you in your home or around town
  • Geriatric care management for you or your family members anywhere in the US
  • Rides home from a medical procedure that are required by the hospital/doctor
  • Personalized grocery shopping—we will drive you or deliver groceries to your home
  • Discounts to all providers: Electricians, plumbers, organizers, personal trainers, massage therapists, homecare specialists

A similar program was started on Cape Cod in 2011. It is called Nauset Neighbors (www.nausetneighbors.org) that states “One call does it all”. It is staffed by 320 volunteers and serves over 260 seniors in the lower Cape. Volunteers provide transportation, light home maintenance, technical support, and other support tasks

There are now eight open villages in Massachusetts. Each village is unique to its area and resources.  Nauset Neighbors is part of the Village to Village Network (http://www.vtvnetwork.org/) which now is composed of 190 open villages with another 185 in development around the country.