Supporting Daily Living

Supporting Daily Living

Based on the Boston’s Beacon Hill Village model, East Rock Village, Inc. coordinates a combination of paid and volunteer services to see to the practical, health, and social needs of their members.  Through the organization, the network of members can find vetted and, in some cases, discounted vendors for home repair, landscaping, home health aides, transportation and entertainment.  East Rock Village provides residents of portions of New Haven, Hamden, and North Haven with the opportunities, services, and confidence they need to remain active participants in the life of the community, living their lives to the fullest as they grow older in the comfort of their own homes.

After long and successful careers as head of the  Arts Council of Greater New Haven, she’s proud that through a totally volunteer effort, the Village won a $100,000 challenge grant from an anonymous family foundation and made the $100,000 match in under three months. It will provide stability to the organization as it grows from its current 130 members to a self-sustaining level of 300 members, and extends to other nearby towns.

However, she says it can be tough to recruit people who don't think of themselves as "seniors."

“You remember that the baby boomers' slogan was always ‘Don't trust anyone over 30,’ and it's very hard for you to think about the fact that you're going to get older or that you are getting older. The elders say, ‘I'm fine, I'm not ready.’” She adds that while many organizations and agencies provide similar services, with the first wave of baby boomers turning 65 this year, “There's going be so many people that are going to need these services that there's room enough for everybody.”

Robert Berner, 71, and his wife, Cecilia, are members of ERV and also volunteers.  He says their main purpose in joining was to be able to stay in their home as they age, getting whatever services they might need. But the social aspects of ERV are a big part of it, too, he adds. “It widens your social contacts, and there are various functions,” he says, mentioning a trip to the Bronx Botanical Gardens; a seminar led by a retired Yale professor of French about a Moliere play; an upcoming hockey game; and a tour of the world in food that most recently “visited” Italy and Morocco. Berner calls it a social network “without Facebook,” harking back to the in-person way to socialize that held sway before the very recent arrival of on-line “friends.”

The daughter of one member thinks this model, if widely adopted, could change the face of health care in America. She writes, “Bitsie and the volunteers have responded and helped us at every juncture at which we have asked for help: delivering and  picking up prescriptions; medical supply and appliance shopping; investigating and measuring for the installation of services such as a handicapped-friendly remote door opener, air conditioner, stove; the installation of a possible ramp for a wheel chair;  transport to and/or attendance at doctors’ appointments; liaising with rehab centers and care agencies; doing follow up calls; social visiting; sending readers; and a host of other services – not the least of which is getting back to [out of state] family about how things are going surrounding the execution of a particular task. Without East Rock Village, our family would not be able to put into place all the on-going pieces that are necessary for home care, whether or not the family lives on site. We owe East Rock [Village], and Bitsie and her team a profound debt of gratitude.”

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.

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