By Rachel McGrath, Ventura County Star, March 7, 2012

More than 140 seniors attended a presentation Wednesday about the “village” movement, which offers people a way to stay in their own homes and communities as they get older.

The presentation in Thousand Oaks was held by the Council on Aging in the city.

The number of visitors was so large that the meeting had to be transmitted from the Board Room, which was filled to capacity, via video to about 100 people in Scherr Forum.

Andrea Gallagher, president of Senior Concerns in Thousand Oaks and an adviser to the council, said the response was surprising.

“The most the council has ever had attend a meeting is 85 people so this is quite significant,” she said.

A village aims to create a community model that lets seniors stay in their own homes rather than in assisted-living facilities or nursing homes or come to depend on their children for services, Gallagher said.

According to the Village-to-Village Network, villages are membership-driven, grass-roots organizations run by volunteers and paid staff that offer one-stop shopping for services such as transportation, health and wellness programs, home repairs, social and educational activities, medical care and access to vetted and discounted providers.

Mary Ann Marx, 68, said she attended out of curiosity.

“People mostly want to stay in their own homes when they’re at their later age, and they seem to have a way worked out with this Village Network, from what I read, that that is a possibility,” she said.

“I heard about it last summer on the East Coast from a friend in Boston who was considering her network there, and I was interested because I am single and aging,” Antonette Cypret said.

“I think people can feel isolated in their own neighborhoods. I want to learn the range of volunteer services that they provide and of course the cost,” she said.

Judy Badstibner, 73, said she knew nothing about the village movement and wanted to get more information.

“We hope it’s an alternative to long-term care insurance,” Badstibner said.

Susan Poor, a senior policy adviser for the Village-to-Village Network and founder and board member for the San Francisco Village, provided an overview of the village model.

She described it as “person-centered” and said the main concepts are: housing; access to medical care; access to nonmedical care such as transportation and grocery shopping; technology; caregiver support; and the value of community so as to avoid isolation.

The village movement began in 2002 in Boston with the Beacon Hill Village. According to Poor, there are 68 villages in the U.S. and at least 120 in development.

These villages are self-governing and self-supporting. They provide help with daily living needs and consolidate and coordinate services, Poor said.

One such village, WISE Connections, is in Santa Monica.

Caroline Koskinas told the audience Wednesday that it has 100 members, who pay $365 a year per person or $475 per year for a two-person household, and that it delivers 70 services a month.

“That varies from us calling people just checking in and making sure you’re doing OK to helping take out the trash or helping people to drive somewhere and taking them to the grocery store,” Koskinas said.

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