News / USA

'Virtual Village' Helps Elderly Stay in Own Home

Membership nonprofit provides services for older people

Multimedia

Audio
Tom Banse

Philip and Midori Kono Theil bid goodbye to NEST director Judy Kinney.
Philip and Midori Kono Theil bid goodbye to NEST director Judy Kinney.

At 91, Philip Theil lives in a century-old house in Seattle's University District and that's the way he wants to keep it.

"As far as I'm concerned, I would not like to leave this place," says the naval architect. "Living in a group situation is something I couldn't tolerate. I'd kill myself before I had to do that."

Many elderly Americans, who can no longer manage on their own, spend their final years in a nursing home or assisted living facility. However, the vast majority of seniors would prefer to live in their own homes as long as possible.



Theil says he and his wife manage pretty well right now. Their two-story house is stuffed to the rafters with the books, artwork and projects of a life well lived. But the couple can feel their advancing age and realize they'll soon need more help with basic household chores, like changing that light bulb at the top of the stairs.

"To change that tube, I have to bring in a stepladder and put it partly on the landing and partly on the stairs and climb up," Theil says. "It's kind of trepiditious."

In the old days, the Theils could ask their children to climb up there or maybe the teenager from down the street when he came over to mow the lawn. But those young helpers have grown up and gone.

"We have kids and we call them occasionally, but one lives in Munich, Germany, another lives in London and a third lives in Los Angeles," Theil says. "They're not going to drop around for a weekend call type of thing."

Aging in place

So the Theils are looking into joining a "virtual village," a new breed of nonprofit which provides a local network of volunteers and service providers dedicated to helping the elderly age in place.  

They assist seniors with anything from transportation and grocery delivery to home repairs and dog walking. The concept originated in Boston a decade ago and has since grown into what you might call a national movement. An informal network of villages includes more than 150 others in development or already serving clients.

"The 'silver tsunami' is the term that's tossed about," says Tom La Pointe, who was recently hired to start a village organization in the small town of Moscow, Idaho. "We are trying to get ready for what is anticipated to be a glut of baby boomers retiring within the next 20 or so years."

La Pointe's nonprofit, My Own Home, aims to serve a vast middle ground of seniors; those who are too well off to qualify for public services, but not rich enough to afford their own staff to do things like change light bulbs.

Helping hand for a fee

In most cases, the villages charge a membership fee, which can range from about $100 to more than $1000 per year. Once you're a member, some of the services are free, while others are provided by a vetted third party vendor that might offer a discounted rate.

Judy Kinney directs an aging in place startup called North East Seattle Together (NEST).

"When someone calls us, they may say, 'I need help with transportation.' We're going to work with them to see if it is a volunteer that helps, if it's a vetted vendor that helps or there is a community service in place," Kinney says. "That's the process we're going to do when someone picks up the phone. People have called it a concierge. People call and say I need this help. We help you figure out the best choice."

Kinney's group is one of about half a dozen in the Pacific Northwest expected to launch in the next several months. At a village already in operation in central Oregon, the most-requested services are rides to the doctor, simple home repairs, help with grocery shopping and picking up prescriptions or big items.

In Moscow, Idaho, Tom La Pointe imagines snow shoveling, yard work or computer-tech support will also rank high.

"On the other hand, if you need daily care, 24/7 care, that is not what we do," La Pointe says. "We don't do bathing services for example. We are here and we exist for the folks who might need a little extra assistance."

La Pointe says his nonprofit is not a charity. It, like the others, will charge elderly clients a membership fee. He hopes 40 seniors will sign up by the end of this year.

Those who do might find out if it's possible to recreate old-fashioned social connections to suit a modern world.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More