If a healthy majority of seniors had their druthers, they would opt to remain in their homes.
Creating a Village, based on neighbor helping neighbor, may help make that happen.
Clayton residents are considering starting a senior community that transcends brick and mortar. The village concept will be explored at a meeting Jan. 29, at the Clayton Community Library.
Clayton has the ingredients for such a thriving community, with its larger-than-average senior population and it being located in a region with a bent toward volunteerism, according to Maria Kontras Xiaris, 52, who is among the initial core of Village enthusiasts.
The Village model offers members access to myriad "concierge" services, from fixing a latch to providing transportation, provided by volunteers and a vetted, professionally prescreened list of purveyors, from attorneys and financial advisers to electricians and plumbers.
"It's an empowerment model," she says. "We want to carve another path. We want new options ... This will catch fire."
If the idea proves viable, the Clayton Valley Village will join 14 in the Bay Area, 100 nationwide and another 100 that are in development, since the concept was launched on Boston's Beacon Hill in 2002, according to Xiaris.
"It's a whole different feel if you're part of a Village (to ask for help.) With families being so far away, this fits the need," says 27-year Clayton resident Sonja Wilkin, who is part of the initial group and who first introduced the idea for the Clayton Valley Village at a council meeting last April.
She is certain this grass-roots idea is going to flourish.
Proponents of the concept in Lamorinda are further along in their implementation, awaiting their tax-exempt nonprofit status, with a target of fall 2014 for the launching of the Lafayette Village for the 65 and older set.
"So long as the creeks don't rise and the damn doesn't break," says Lafayette resident Ruth McCahan, one of its founders and part of its 35-member volunteer task force.
The Village also will offer options for continuing education, health and wellness and a vital social component, along with providing family members the peace of mind that their senior will have supportive round-the-clock resources, McCahan says, noting they are exploring offering daily reassurance calls for members who live alone.
Meanwhile, the Ashby Village has been operating in Berkeley for those 50 and older, and along with dues from its 275 members, has been sustained by philanthropic contributions from the Archstone Foundation.
"We're not designed to provide case management," says its executive director Andy Gaines. "(The Village) is a way to gracefully embrace the challenge of aging."
Elaine Clark, executive director of Meals on Wheels and Senior Outreach Services in Contra Costa County, cites the emergence of these Villages as beneficial means to address the needs of an ever-growing senior population, with the younger segment facing different problems than those from the Depression- and World War II-era who had paid more into Medicare and Social Security.
"All of these models are going to be critical," says Clark, also citing the various senior centers as vehicles for providing resources.
Clark notes that the geographic scope of her agency has the requisite population density to provide more of the emergency interventions than stand-alone Villages, and specifically addresses the segment of lower-income seniors, who are "at risk of falling through the safety net."
Senior Services continues to rely on its vital partnership with the John Muir Foundation to address the vast need, recently securing a grant and launching the first of a three-year project designed to "beef up its care management team."
This allows the community-based organization to define the full scope of a particular senior's needs, be it food, medication management or home modifications to reduce the likelihood of debilitating falls, and then create a "full-on, monitored care plan," Clark says of the ensuing services provided at no cost to qualifying clients.
Whether it's a Village or part of senior outreach, "we're going to look at the whole person that we're going to keep out of the hospital and independent," Clark says.
WHAT: Clayton Valley Villages informational meeting to learn how the Village movement lets seniors stay in their homes as long as possible
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29
WHERE: Clayton Community Library, 6125 Clayton Road