Enthusiasm here already strong for brand new Three Rivers Village

by: REVIEW PHOTO: CLIFF NEWELL - Tom Brennan and Ronnie Bennett go over maps of Lake Oswego as they plan to establish a senior self-help village here named Three Rivers Village.In 1999 some aging folks on Beacon Hill in Boston gathered to talk about what to do about the problem of aging.

Their answer was such a good one that the result was the Village Movement, which is rapidly catching on across the country.

The latest “village” set to spring up is in Lake Oswego. In fact, it was just named Three Rivers Village on March 18. Certainly, other projects exist with the purpose of helping people as they age and are less able to handle the problems that come with aging — especially the problem of how they can stay in their own home.

At the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center, Ronni Bennett and Tom Brennan are the village builders, because they believe no other model is so comprehensive in helping people moving into the ranks of senior citizens.

“No government at any level has any plans on taking care of old people,” said Bennett, a columnist for the website “It’s up to us.”

“I was in the in-home care industry for 14 years,” Brennan said. “I’ve seen a lot of needs across the board, and I’ve always been interested in cooperative type of living. When Ronni brought the Village Movement to my attention I was really interested.”

Although Bennett said she was impressed with the movement for several years, she thought it would work only in an urban setting, like Boston. But as she observed the progress of the movement she became convinced it would work in Lake Oswego. She soon had her partner in the venture in mind.

“I had worked with Tom on the 50-Plus Advisory Board,” Bennett said. “I said, ‘I know who would work with me.’”

While readily admitting there are “tons of organizations” that help senior citizens, none of them are like the Village Movement.

“This is the putty that fills all the gaps,” Brennan said. “It’s filling a need that has existed for ages. I have to support something that is this comprehensive.”

“We’re like the one-stop shopping for the needs of old people,” Bennett said. “We will have volunteers for all types of needs and we can also partner with other organizations.”

The Village Movement works like this: Senior citizens can stay in their own homes by forming a community organization that provides access to services that support the goal of remaining in their own home as long as possible. A village can be formed in a large building, such as in New York City, or in a radius covering about 20 miles. There is apparently no limit to the services offered to village members: home safety improvements, transportation, meal delivery, technology training, health and wellness programs, dog walking, cat sitting and much more. A fee will be charged for membership, although Bennett said it will be a long time before the amount is set.

Bennett has discovered that one aspect of the Village Movement counts more than any other.

“There was a tea planned for Eastside PDX, and Ken Pyburn (of Villages NW) expected about 25 people to show up,” she said. “Instead, 100 showed up. The social part is very important. Loneliness and isolation does terrible things to old people. We want to promote a lot of social engagement. There is such trouble with people being stuck in their homes. This is the reason we all need to be with each other.”

Bennett and Brennan immediately realized they were on to something good when they first announced their village plan at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.

“We had 35 or 40 people at our first meeting,” Brennan said. “It was amazing. We’ve now had three or four meetings and the interest is still pretty high.”

The high interest for the Village Movement in Lake Oswego is simply what is happening all over the country, with 120 villages now operating across the USA and more being planned every day. But Bennett wants local enthusiasts to be patient.

“They would like to have a village right now,” she said. “But it usually takes two to five years of laying the groundwork.”

Still, Bennett and Brennan say they will have a great advantage because they can join Villages NW, a “hub village” that will take over the legal and financial burdens that the new Lake Oswego village would otherwise have to handle.

“Now we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Brennan said. “This just makes sense.”

“Villages NW also has three years of experience under its belt,” Bennett noted.

Which still leaves Bennett and Brennan with a huge amount of work ahead of them, like setting borders, accumulating census data, signing up members, vetting services, forming a business plan, etc. But it seems no obstacles will stand up to their fiery enthusiasm.

“We’re going to have a village that will define the unique needs of this city,” Brennan said.

“I’m so excited about this,” Bennett said. “I’m hearing, ‘Will you hurry up and get this done for me?’”

To find out more about Lake Oswego’s Village Movement, contact Ronni Bennett at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call her at 212-242-0184.

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