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New effort gets under way to help Vashon’s seniors ‘age in place’
With the goal of helping Islanders stay in their homes as they age, a group of Vashon women has formed a nonprofit organization and launched a survey to assess what kind of services people might need to meet that goal.
The organization, called Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N), first came together one year ago, when Island caregivers felt that some Island seniors had unmet needs and were falling through the cracks, according to Emma Amiad, one of the board members of the group.
Now, after considerable work, the group is planning to coordinate a variety of people to meet those needs, including caregivers and volunteers who will help with a range of personal and household tasks. They expect also to have a list of approved vendors who offer their professional skills in ways that people routinely need, such as visiting nurses, plumbers, counselors and electricians.
But before N2N members move forward, they want to hear from the community.
“The survey results will allow us to fine tune our mission and get very specific and clear about needs tailored to this community,” said Marcia Swain, the president of the board.
The survey, which takes just a few minutes to fill out, is online as well as in businesses around the Island. Its questions include what people’s greatest concerns are about staying in their homes as they age, what services they would be most interested in receiving and if people would volunteer to provide household chores, gardening and similar services.
“We are asking what can we do as a community to help people stay in their homes,” Amiad said. In a lot of cases, it’s very minor…. Sometimes it might be just mowing the lawn.”
N2N services might also offer peace of mind to children of older parents, Amiad noted, giving them somebody to call if they perceive help is needed.
One possibility, Swain said, is that the group will offer a daily check-in phone call, just to make sure a senior is doing OK. Another need they’re almost certain they will need to fill is transportation, a clear issue on rural Vashon.
Amiad credits caregiver Angie Meier with calling this group together after seeing seniors face problems that she knew could be tended to by volunteers. In researching how to meet their needs, she learned about Village to Village, a growing nationwide movement that helps people “age in place.” There are more than 50 “villages” in the United States, and one in Australia.
Vashon’s group is modeled on Village to Village and has borrowed from their expertise, Amiad said, including creating its bylaws and constitution as well as this survey. While most Village to Village networks charge membership fees, Amiad said, Vashon’s group is still studying the best financial framework.
“We are trying to sort out the financial picture so we will be sustainable over 50 years or more, not five months,” she said.
The demographics of Vashon mean that the need for N2N’s services could be large, as 20 percent of the population here is over 55, according to Swain.
And, as much as most seniors want to stay in their homes, Village to Village surveys in other communities and a small survey N2N did early on point to the same issue.
“Most people do not think they’re going to need help, and mostly they do,” Amiad said. “We want to be up and running when they need us.”
N2N would like Islanders across the age spectrum to fill out the survey. Do it online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/JMKPCDY, or pick up a survey and drop it off at the following locations: Vashon Pharmacy, Vashon Senior Center, Vashon Community Care, Amiad & Associates, the Harbor Mercantile and Minglement. The deadline is Nov. 30.