Helping seniors age in place
A new organization is seeking volunteers to help provide services and a helping hand to seniors in Lake Oswego and West Linn.
The group is a local chapter of the organization Villages NW, a nonprofit that aims to bring services to seniors so that they can stay in homes where, in some cases, they've lived for decades.
The idea is called "aging in place," and it's starting to gain traction in communities across the Pacific Northwest. Nine grassroots "villages" are already operating in the region — including two in Portland, a Village Without Walls in western Washington County and Viva Village in Beaverton — and more are in the planning stages.
Nationwide, there are more than 80 villages in place and more than 140 in development.
"A lot of people ask the question, 'Why is there a need for this?' They say we're affluent communities filled with people who can afford to buy their own services, but that's not necessarily true," says Noreen LeSage, a Lake Oswego resident who's working to establish the local "village."
LeSage says she witnessed a situation this past winter in which an elderly neighbor's phone and internet were interrupted during a big snow storm that gripped the region. The woman was running low on food and was unable to leave the house or contact anyone. After three days, neighbors checked in on the woman
and helped her restock her pantry.
"This poor lady was anxiety ridden," LeSage says. "She thought she was never going to get out of the house due to the weather. But there are people who could and would have gone to help her."
LeSage believes a network of volunteers could be a huge help to local seniors by doing housework, setting up technological equipment such as a cellphone or computer, or even teaching someone how to use the Uber app to call for a ride to the grocery store.
Villages typically are tailored to the specific needs of their communities. For example, Eastside Village PDX offers everything from social visits and help with errands to yardwork, short-term pet care and minor maintenence. Viva Village in Beaverton adds nature walks, movie discussion groups and field trips to the mix.
Memberships in the villages include access to social and educational programs; health, wellness and fitness activities; professional services from vetted vendors; and assistance from trained volunteers, all based on a strategy of bringing services to people rather than moving people to services.
Annual costs range from about $275 to $550 per person — far less than the cost of assisted-living facilities or nursing home care.
LeSage says an informational meeting held last week drew more than 20 people who expressed interesting in volunteering their time, talent or treasure to create "villages" in Lake Oswego and West Linn. Another meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 12, at Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Station 58, which is located at 6050 Failing St. in West Linn.