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

Ukraine President Appeals for More US Support

Speaking before Congress ahead of meeting with President Obama, Petro Poroshenko urges lawmakers to back Ukraine in its quest for freedom and democracy More

Photogallery Global Audience Watches as Scots Go to the Polls

People were almost equally divided over a vote for independence, watched closely by Britain's allies, investors and restive regions at home and abroad More

China to Invest $20 billion In India Amid Border Dispute

Border spat between armies of two countries in Himalayas underlines mutual tensions despite growing commercial ties highlighted by Xi Jinping's high profile visit 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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid