Attention all seniors over 55. Self-help is on the way!
Lamorinda Village in Contra Costa County has now opened its doors to establish a resource for people who want to grow old without having to leave their homes. The "business model" calls for seniors helping each other as much as possible in what amounts to a closely-knit support group -- like a club. Beyond volunteer efforts, the village operates as a social center and clearing house for negotiating costs and providing services to facilitate in-home living.
Thankfully, we're not reinventing the wheel here. The concept began 15 years ago with Boston's Beacon Hill Project. Residents decided in 2001 that they didn't want to leave any sooner than necessary from what has been that city's toniest neighborhood since the 1600s. My great-aunt lived there around 1910 when she was the first female surgeon in Boston (just so you know). Neighbors identified their respective strengths and weaknesses and determined that they could collectively go a long way toward helping each other before they had to capitulate to the variety of institutions that many come to depend upon later in life.
The "village" system offers a long shopping list of home-based volunteer services ranging from transportation, grocery shopping, light housekeeping and minor household repairs, to lots of social contact. It doesn't stop there. There are also referrals to screened service providers for such things as painters, accountants, personal care attendants, and health/fitness programs. Negotiated fees for many of these services assure the member of some savings over what they might otherwise have paid.
Beyond Lamorinda Village as the newest of the Bay Area villages, there is Ashby Village in Berkeley serving those on the west side of the tunnel as well as Avenidas Village in Palo Alto serving much of the South Bay. As the concept continues to spread, the range of services reflects increasing creativity. Avenidas, for example, even includes a pet care element.
With almost 200 of these villages up and running or in formative stages across the country, the efficacy of the concept speaks for itself. Both Concord and Walnut Creek, not wanting to be left behind, are in the process of setting up their own versions. It is, if I may say it, a sort of status symbol for a community if you look at where these organizations have been formed. While Groucho Marx once said he would never want to join a club that would accept him, I think he would have made an exception for any one of the villages. They make so much sense it would be hard to say no.
The cost for a household is only $100 per month. For a single member, the cost is even less. If someone factors in what they are continuing to save over the coming years based on their ancient Proposition 13 property tax rates, the fact that a village membership postpones the need to move, creates an economic incentive to stay put. On that basis, a $100-per-month membership might be the best investment anyone could make.
Furthermore, when it comes to providing a meaningful gift, those under 55 should consider offering to pay for a parent who would be reluctant to part with $100 under any circumstances. "Surprise, Mom and Dad! I know you'll just love it."