South Salem is home to the first of several neighborhood “villages” designed to help seniors live in their own homes as they age.

“The South Salem Village is a nonprofit organization connecting seniors with seniors and neighbors with neighbors,” says Brenda Kidder, executive director of Villages of WEAVE, which stands for WE are All Village Elders. “We help provide support for seniors to experience an active, healthy lifestyle and remain in their homes for as long as possible. Our goal is to offer a range of services that attract a variety of members, providing them with strong reasons to join and be involved as volunteers. To achieve our goals, the Village offers a network of resources, services, programs and activities that revolve around the daily needs of members.”

The South Salem village was founded officially in July 2018 by Dr. Jennifer Neahring, a palliative care physician in Salem. The organization is based on the village model and was developed in collaboration with the national Village to Village Network, founded in 2010 in St. Louis.

Neahring’s parents recently moved to the area and had belonged to a village in Pittsburgh, Kidder says. 

“With their experience and her knowledge and drive, she felt that this was something many seniors in our community would greatly benefit from,” she says. “It was a way to rebuild the community and neighborhood connections that have been lost over time.”

Kidder believes most seniors are less afraid of dying than to be forced to move from their home. 

“But seniors experience limitations as they age whether it is driving, lifting heavy objects or withdrawal as their circle of friends gets smaller,” she says. “With a little help, seniors that might otherwise be forced to move or leave their homes are able to continue to live independently longer.”

The village connects seniors with nearby neighbors and other volunteers who provide help with errands, rides and visits. The model also encourages development of social activities, vetted contractor lists, and other useful services to village members. Services are supported by grants, donations, volunteers and a small membership fee, which can be fulfilled through volunteering or a sponsor.

“Most of our volunteers are seniors who have time to help others,” Kidder says. “In turn, as they age, other village volunteers will be in place to help them. There are a variety of tasks volunteers help with like transportation to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment, taking walks with a member who doesn’t feel comfortable walking alone, or friendly check-in calls for members who are house bound. 

“We also have informative monthly meetings and outings to keep seniors involved and socially engaged,” she says. “We have a $10 fee to help cover the cost of a background check and a survey to find out the interests and abilities of a volunteer. We post needs on our site where volunteers find needs that fits their interests and schedule.”

One volunteer told Kidder, “It brings a tear to my eyes to see what the village is doing for our community.”

Kidder says another woman shared that she was glad to be a member.

“I’m feeling way better than three months ago when you first started calling,” she told Kidder. “I believe you’ve really helped me out with a lot of things. And you got me out of my shell a bit. I’m normally not a people person, but since talking with you all, it’s opened a little road out of myself, to realize there are others out there besides me who need help. Things are slowly starting to turn around for me now.”

According to Villages NW, the movement’s national organization reports more than 110 villages now exist in the nation, with another 120-plus now in development. Portland’s greater metropolitan area now has 10 aging-at-home villages under the umbrella of Villages NW. 

Candace Baldwin, co-director of the Village to Village Network, says, “When you think about the fact that by 2032, there will be more people over 65 than people under 15, we have no time to lose in getting sustainable villages in place.” 

South Salem Village currently has seven seniors needing services and 34 volunteers who have signed on, Kidder says. 

“Our volunteers have provided over 150 hours of volunteer time to other seniors in need,” she adds. “We are always looking for more senior volunteers.”

To volunteer or learn more about the South Salem Village, visit weavenetwork.org or call 503-508-1867. Villages of WEAVE – South Salem also has a Facebook page with events, tips and other information. ☸

Some things to think about:
How will you use it, and how important is the inside to outside connection. Will you go out the door and stay out until you come back in? Will you go in and out often? Will you be outside talking to someone who is inside?
What to do about bug screens?
Do you plan to install AC? Because being able to open up an entire wall to the back yard will really help cool the house down, but it will fight your AC in summer. Best to spend money on one or the other.
Deck off door? Big enough for table or just some chairs? How high above the yard? Do you want to step down from the door to a lower deck, or keep the deck even with the main floor level?
Place to store trash/recycling in the back yard?
Covered or uncovered bbq storage area? How far should it be from the rear door (and the kitchen/fridge)?
Fire pit or linear burner in deck?
Lights or torches on deck?
Posts or trellis over the deck for shade?
Outdoor refrigerator?
Do you need to have a solid or decorative wall on one or more sides of the deck for privacy? Go get a stepladder and put it in the yard so you can stand as high as your deck will be. How many people are looking right at you?
Where do you want electrical? Some outlets for vaccuuming/blowing off the deck/landscape? outlets convenient for a radio or charging phones?
Exterior speakers for deck area?
Water feature on or near deck to generate white noise?
How are you going to take the dog outside if you get another dog?
Storage shed in the back yard for lawnmower etc? Or mower in garage so you can take it out front and out back easily?
How will you access the back yard: when you are alone? When mom is over? When you have a party? When Eleanor is a little older and has friends over? IE will you leave the front door open and people will go into the back yard from the dining room? Or will you use the gate on the side of the house?
If you have a party how will people go inside and find the bathroom?
Do you want some landscape or hardscape (trellis, wall, fence) in front of your bedroom window
Speaking of your bedroom, do you want to have a door out into the back yard from your bedroom and one from the main house? Should they go onto the same deck? Two different decks? Deck on one, straight to ground for the other? Private garden with landscape separation outside the master so you can not be seen from the main deck?
Outdoor shower?

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