Village at the Falls group

A group of volunteers from Village at the Falls.

Since Villages NW started nine years ago, more than 600 seniors in the Portland area have signed on as members — neighbors helping and needing one another.

This year, three new “villages” have or will open to provide services. These connected communities use trained volunteers to assist their neighbors who want to age in place but find they could use some extra help.

About 50 percent of the requests are for rides, says Diane Peterson, outreach team leader for Village at the Falls, launching May 1 and servicing Oregon City, Redlands and Beavercreek.

“We will provide rides to the doctor, or church, things like that,” she says. “You have to be able to get in and out of the car by yourself. But we are working on building a big enough driver base to meet those needs.”

Other needs may include home services, like changing a light bulb, very light housekeeping and gardening, and some repairs.

This village has been in the organizational stage for the past two years. As a “hub and spoke” of Villages NW, it received assistance with its nonprofit paperwork, something that could’ve delayed the launch date by another year.

A core of team leaders has been meeting twice a month to establish the geographic boundaries, membership fees, background checks and software that will match volunteers to member needs.

“We have about 40 trained volunteers who have gone through the background checks,” Peterson says. “We started recruiting members in mid-March and had our first ‘members tea.’” More members are being recruited through online communities like Next Door, local farmers markets, religious communities and neighborhood associations.

“The need is great,” Peterson says. “I think this is a really, really good thing. We want to prevent people from being isolated, especially when they lose their ability to drive.”

Full membership is $45 per month and includes up to 12 services. Flex memberships at $25 offer four services per month but can be adjusted if there is a greater need, such as when a person is recovering from surgery.

“I think that might be handy for some members,” she says. “We are also conscious that not everybody can afford it, so we have a fund for member assistance on a case by case basis. We don’t want anybody to not take advantage of a service just because of cost.”

Peterson says that about 25 percent of this Clackamas County area is ages 65 and older, but not everybody in this age group will need village services.

“We’re aiming for those who are in the middle (income), who can afford a small amount of money every month and are still relatively active,” she says. “That’s our target market.”

Also opening in the past six months is “WLLO,” a village for West Linn and Lake Oswego; and Rivers East, a village for seniors in the Milwaukie and Gladstone areas.

WLLO will have its annual members meeting from 10 a.m. to noon April 18, at Oswego Point Village, Riverside Room, 5065 Foothills Dr., Lake Oswego. Other gatherings include mah jongg, lunch bunch, happy hour, and more.

Rivers East started planning two years when it saw a need for helping seniors age in their homes more comfortably. The village launched in March and trained volunteers are helping members with transportation, tech support, assistance in the home and yard, social events, educational opportunities, and more, says Pat Carter, a member of the Rivers East Village. For more information, contact Carter at 971-808-2340 or visit riverseastvillage.org.

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