Aging in place
This article was updated from its original version
Though Lake Oswego resident Noreen LeSage's in-laws live near their children in the Garden Home neighborhood of Southwest Portland, they sometimes were left stranded in their home without transportation options during the work week.
But after the River West Village opened in Southwest Portland in 2017, LeSage says they now can simply contact one of River West's volunteer drivers — and the driver will escort them to a lunch with friends, an art class or other meaningful activities.
Still, the Village movement — which will open in the Lake Oswego, West Linn and Stafford Hamlet areas in June — is much more than a ride service. Members of the Village can also receive help replacing a lightbulb, raking leaves, fixing computer malfunctions and other tasks around the house. Not to mention, the Village also includes regular events and meetups.
All in all, the goal is to providing support for an increasingly aging population (the Population Reference Bureau projects that the number of Americans age 65 and older will increase from 46 million to over 98 million by 2060) and forge a more united community.
"I grew up in Hawaii where people automatically look out for each other, and I found that when I moved here in Oregon it wasn't so much that way. We don't even know some of the neighbors," LeSage said. "A community of people that's supportive of others ... whether you want to age in your home or go to an assisted living place, you can still be a part of a village and find a group of friends."
The WLLO Village is a part of Village NW, a nonprofit organization that has helped sprout villages in Portland, Beaverton, Vancouver and other areas.
LeSage, WLLO Village Chair Christine Kennedy and others have been planning the opening of the WLLO Village for the past two years.
"A big part of what we've done over the last two years is reach out to people through neighborhood associations, adult community centers, farmers markets and done a lot of outreach to share their story," Kennedy said. "'If you have this available what would it look like?' I have a list of 400 names who are interested in the concept."
Membership options include an associate membership for people who just want to attend the social gatherings and receive help a few times a year, which costs $300 per year; and a full-service membership, where people can receive up to three round trip rides a week as well as in-home services and the chance to attend gatherings — which costs $540 a year. The WLLO Village is also seeking volunteers who are handy around the house or are willing to become drivers, which includes driving people to a couple outings a week and then back home.
"The core of volunteers are early retirees, people looking for an opportunity to give back," Kennedy said. "If you've been working full-time and retire, the majority of your social circle is where you work. This is a wonderful opportunity for young retirees to get involved in something that's fun."
Kennedy said rides make up over half of the service requests and she hopes to have enough volunteer drivers once the Village opens. Prospective drivers must take a few driving classes and pass a test before they can get on board.
"It's a little hard (to find volunteers) because it involves more training to drive," LeSage said.
One of the missions of the Village Movement is to allow people to stay in their homes longer rather than feeling forced to move into an assisted living facility because they are unable to manage some household tasks.
"My background is in nursing and healthcare. I saw a lot of people that went through this whole transition. They didn't feel like there's a lot of options," Kennedy said. "It's a very different kind of an option to support people not just in the home but to help them stay connected in the community."
The WLLO currently hosts happy hours and lunches but are waiting to sign members up in June before adding additional social opportunities and also hope to partner with local community centers so as not to provide overlapping services. They are also hosting a kick-off party from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, March 17 at Oswego Pointe Condominiums, 5065 Foothills Road, Riverside Room in Lake Oswego and another kick-off party at the West Linn Adult Community Center 2-4 p.m. Sunday, April 7. For more information on the WLLO Village, visit www.wllovillage.org/.
"We would like to do more things that are more member driven: movie night, book club, knitting club, hiking club, whatever," LeSage said. "If nobody wants to do a lunch anymore we'll just get rid of it. It will be member driven."
In a previous version of this article, the name of the WLLO Village was misreported in multiple instances