Neighbors helping neighbors is a decades-old concept that, with community gardens and apps like nextdoor.com, has become vogue again. Aging in place is the first choice for nearly 90 percent of Americans. Put the two together and the success of the nationwide Villages program should come as no surprise.
Still on target to open mid-2018, Villages Clark County is a self-sustaining organization that brings a healthy ratio of volunteers and members together. The goal is to help seniors live independently for as long as possible without having to rely on government-funded programs to do so.
“When someone calls for a ride, government programs have to be scheduled,” said John Chapman, co-chair for Villages Clark County. “They don’t service the whole community and aren’t a fit for short-term needs. Villages have found, for the onesy, twosy kinds of things – picking something up or grocery shopping — looking to a neighbor to help out is a better fit than government services. We’re looking to augment where we can and provide other services that other programs aren’t providing.”
Back in 2001, in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, Mass., the first Villages was formed by a group of proactive seniors who chose to take the challenges of aging into their own hands by consolidating their strengths and creating a pool of volunteers to fill in the gaps. Today Beacon Hill has more than 400 members and Villages can now be found from coast to coast.
Since each Village is the captain of its own ship, so to speak, Villages Clark County has been forming its foundation from regular Villages 101 and Chai and Chat meetings with the community. According to Chapman, Clark County is looking for help with small household chores and transportation but they also stress the desire for a strong social component.
“Those of us who grew up in small communities are familiar with the social part (of small communities) and churches still do a great job of that, but we’re now so spread out and it’s become fractured,” he said.
Input ranges from three or four people wanting to engage in a farmers market outing to help with Medicare education to rides to medical appointments to an organized game night.
Villages Clark County garners its support from VillagesNW, which oversees the Portland-Vancouver Metro Area. Chapman shared that four Villages in the Portland area have been open from one to two years and two more are set to open this fall. Each started with about 30 members and one has grown to 60. The more volunteers and members a Village has, the more it can support the types of social programs and activities that members want to be involved with.
Although Villages Clark County is looking at every grant avenue available, Chapman said that they are excited to participate in Give More 24 this year — set for Sept. 21. Not only will Give More help expand the efforts of Villages, the fundraising aspect will go a long way in ensuring a bank of startup funds to roll out Villages strong in 2018.
The Villages blueprint resonates with a variety of individuals. Chapman shared that, with families more spread out than generations past, some interested volunteers appreciate the help that neighbors give to their aging parents living in other parts of the country. Villages is an opportunity for them to reciprocate kindness with someone else’s family member.
“Companionship grows from volunteering,” Chapman said. “It doesn’t have to be a forced thing. People enjoy helping people and it’s a better way to create a sense of community.”
For more information about Villages Clark County or to become a volunteer or help with outreach, go to www.VillagesClarkCounty.org.