Seniors Digest
Seattle-King County Edition
  April 1, 2009 

The Village Movement Comes Home to Seattle

As you age, you may see friends move to warmer climates, buy into life care communities, move to senior retirement homes, or move in with family. Many older adults have a broad range of housing and lifestyle choices to consider. Yet many people are passionate about continuing to live in their own home, in the neighborhood they love.

NEST founding members

Three founding members of the Northeast Seattle Village: (left from right) Debbie Anderson, Mike Ullman and Murray Meld.

The "village movement" is a grassroots effort to build communities that support aging in place. Modeled after the Beacon Village in Boston, there are over 36 "virtual villages" across the country, where neighbors are engaging each other to organize, incorporate and take charge of their later years.

If this is for you, join us in creating North East Seattle Together (NEST), a virtual retirement community. NEST embodies a new concept in self-reliance for healthy aging that is growing across the country. As a non-profit organization, NEST will connect NE Seattle residents to community resources and social and educational opportunities so members, as they age, can live confidently in their homes and neighborhoods

NEST will serve the following communities:  University District, Laurelhurst, Sandpoint, Hawthorne Hills, Ravenna, View Ridge, Wedgwood, Roosevelt, Meadowbrook and Maple Leaf. This area is rich in resources, including many Seattle Parks & Recreation programs, the University of Washington and community colleges, and the Lifetime Learning Center. NE Seattle is also home to over 12,000 persons ages 65+. However, there is not one program in this area that brings these services, programs and people together in an integrated way.

The village will provide one number to call for everything you need. Many people who can pay for services are overwhelmed sorting out which services to use and which will provide quality. The village can also facilitate opportunities for multi-generational exchanges—young people can help in physical ways and older persons have rich life experiences and skills to share.

As friends die or long time neighbors move away and children have lives of their own, it is easy for older adults to become socially isolated. You may find it more challenging to drive, keep the house up, and find meaningful ways to be involved in your community. Or you may be caring for an ill spouse, so it is hard to keep up social contacts and interests. The "Village" or NEST is designed to answer many of these needs.

Where is NEST in its development?

NEST has applied for incorporation as a Washington State not-for-profit and will be working towards qualifying as federal non-profit entity (a 501 c3). We are transitioning from a steering committee making decisions to a Board. Current members of the steering committee are Mike Ullmann, Murray Meld, Eileen Lindsey, Carol Blaich, Basia Belza and Debbie Anderson.

The Board seeks input on services to be offered from community surveys and focus groups and will make decisions about the budget, membership fees, and eventually will hire professional staff to run the program. It will be a working board with committees such as service development, membership/marketing and fundraising. NEST needs all kinds of help, both in terms of volunteer efforts and seed money, to be able to launch in the next 12 to 18 months. Volunteers of all ages, both members and non-members, will play an important role in making NEST sustainable and fun!

Interested persons have called from many neighborhoods of Seattle and asked if their communities could be included. We would love to see villages spring up all over Seattle and hope that if we can get NEST going, we can be a help and inspiration to other Seattle neighborhoods. Seattle has many vital neighborhoods, each with its own assets and opportunities. The village concept encourages local connections, engaging neighbors of all ages to volunteer and participate, so if the area becomes too large, the power of building local connections is lost. Also, the model and strategic partnerships we develop for NEST may not be the best for other communities. However, as other villages develop, we can collaborate through a village association to share ideas and best practice concepts.

What services will NEST offer?

NEST is considering offering what is typically offered by most villages, but the final decisions will be based on local input.  Our goal is to provide one number to call to arrange for all kinds of services:

  • From home repair and home upkeep, to pet care and gardening, to daily in-home care or assistance, service providers will be vetted and some will offer a discounted rate for members. 
  • Transportation services will also be available, either offered by volunteers or by paid staff, for grocery shopping, medical appointments, and getting out to "Village"-organized events.
  • Wellness and fitness programs will include walking and exercise groups. Friendships that develop through these groups are often a great help in dealing with the daily challenges of chronic illness, or can just help members look forward to each day.
  • Classes and discussions offered by staff, local health care experts, and members themselves on such topics as health and wellness, as well as memoir writing, horticulture at home and other subjects, will reflect the talents and skills of the members and the NE community.
  • Organized social activities will include luncheons or seminars with speakers on a wide range of issues, cultural and musical gatherings, and intergenerational activities in partnership with local schools and youth groups. Books clubs and interest groups, such as arts or history buffs, would be developed.
  • Preferred provider relationships with local health care providers, fitness clubs and service organizations will add special value for village members.

Who can join and what is a typical annual membership fee?

All ages are welcome to join the village. Membership fees vary widely across the country. They may range from $350/year to $1,200 per year, depending on decisions made by the Board regarding their commitment to fundraising and the extent to which they hire staff to perform most of the work, or count on a large volunteer base. The NEST Steering committee is seeking input on what potential members want included in the services. This will determine the yearly cost of membership. We will also be seeking grant funding to provide scholarships.

Are there other models to look at around the country?

On the Beacon Hill Village website under "Other Villages," there is an excellent listing of some of the established "Villages." The seven year old Beacon Hill Village is the national model from which others have sprung. There are currently at least 36 villages around the country, with new ones forming on a regular basis.

To find out more, join us at one of our upcoming informational meetings:

Thursday, April 16, 3:30 – 5:00 p.m. 
Thursday, May 14, 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.
Thursday June 11,  5:30 – 7:00 p.m.

All meetings are at the North East Library, 6801 35th Avenue, Seattle.

For more information or to offer to help, please contact:

Mike Ullmann
Murray Meld

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 This Issue
Welcome to the April 2009 Seniors Digest
Community Kitchens: Cooking Up Community!
Understanding the Needs of Family Caregivers in Washington State
The Village Movement Comes Home to Seattle
Save the Date for These Upcoming Events
April 19-25 is National Volunteer Week
"Benefits of Volunteering" Wordfind
Links You Can Use
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