New Models To Help Seniors Age In Their Communities

NNC storytelling 12-11-12 013By Lane Levine
Community Network Director
CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc.

On July 3 of last year, 30 neighborhood residents, many of them seniors, piled into Risyl Edelman’s home on Glen Avenue. Although they came for 30 different reasons – some to make a safer community for themselves and their neighbors, others to get things back to how they used to be and still others to get a ride to the doctor once in a while – they all had one overriding goal in common.

These residents were here to plan an innovative initiative for their community. Northwest Neighbors Connecting would support seniors hoping to remain and age in their community.

They began by writing this mission statement:

“Northwest Neighbors Connecting is a support system comprised of individuals offering and seeking support in the Northern Park Heights community. We engage each other, professionals, volunteers and community organizations, to provide a “round-the clock” network to assist us and our neighbors with social interaction, transportation, household upkeep, and day-to-day activity. We envision an interdependent community in which all residents are safe, secure and connected.”

Northwest Neighbors Connecting (NNC) has grown – in numbers, in acts of support between members, in sophistication, in breadth – to an organization ready to go. By its launch in March, Northwest Neighbors Connecting plans to have 100 members signed up, who are driving each other to appointments, teaching each other skills, holding social events, making friendly check-in calls, preparing for emergencies together and much more. NNC wants to be the force in Northern Park Heights that transforms the way we care for one another.

NNC is the first of what will be a series of organizations in Northwest Baltimore fashioned after the Village Model – a mutual support system intended to support seniors to age well in their community. The idea of the Village is that people have access to support from their neighbors in accomplishing the tasks that get a little harder, and that become a little more of a barrier, as the years go by.

With Villages popping up all over the country, we are seeing seniors able to remain in their communities and no longer feel pressured by life’s difficulties to move to assisted living or nursing homes. In the coming years, we expect NNC to flourish and other Village-style organizations to start, ultimately forming the Supportive Community Network.

How did we get here? NNC, and the overarching Supportive Community Network, got their start when THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore decided that the agencies that have been serving our growing number of seniors can only reach a portion of the people who actually need support.

And, a lot of the support people need is the kind that only their neighbors can give them – little favors here and there, rides to appointments and some social connection.

After a year of research and work involving various stakeholders, THE ASSOCIATED decided to try out the Village model, and provide support to the community so they could organize and meet their own needs. They looked to CHAI, your local community development organization, as the organization to initiate the work.

NNC began organizing out of CHAI back in March, with humble conversations on a one-to-one basis. We talked to our neighbors and spoke with people we knew had something to offer and something to gain. From each person’s perspective, each person’s suggestions, we began to form a structure that reflected the needs of this neighborhood. We built slowly — hosting meetings in people’s kitchens and dining rooms, small information sessions in apartment buildings, brainstorming sessions during a walk around the block – however we could get together, we did.

Now, NNC has about 80 active members and eight committees – all vibrant with the work of figuring out how to care for each other. Our Service Coordination committee is figuring out a system to provide seniors with volunteer drivers to the doctor, hair appointment or grocery store; our Advocacy committee is developing ways to support our members in dealing with difficult retailers, landlords or public agencies in their lives. Our Outreach committee is reaching out to synagogues, condominium boards and libraries – and hosting diversity dialogues to make our internal community better able to treat each other with respect. The list goes way, way on.

Our Social Events committee has been especially busy. They hosted an Emergency Preparedness training in January.

Call to be a part of NNC – as a volunteer, as a member – 410-662-6620 or email us at nncbaltimore@gmail.com – get connected!

On January 27th, come on by the Myerberg Center from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. for a White Elephant Sale – you never know what you’ll find! And then on February 27th, we will have a Wine, Cheese and Art party at the Elmont Condominiums – 6317 Park Heights Avenue. Join the fun!

Join us for our official Launch Party on Sunday, March 10, 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. at the Pikesville Senior Center. There will be something for everyone.

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Filed under Seniors, Social Services, Volunteering & Advocacy

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