She lived alone with her pets on 17th St.
It was only when the dogs started acting up that someone tried to call on her and see if she was OK.
But by then it was too late. She was gone.
This anecdote of the passing of an elderly Boise woman got everybody’s attention Tuesday evening at North Junior High School in Boise. A group of 120 North and East End citizens had gathered to consider forming a “Village,” or a support system that would enable senior citizens the option of staying in their own homes rather than assisted living or nursing home facilities.
Though it went without saying, the attendees knew that the woman in the anecdote might have had a different outcome if a neighborhood network of support had existed. Plus, they knew that the woman’s fate could just as easily be theirs.
In theory, a Village concept would create an atmosphere of support — both volunteer and service oriented — that would enrich all of the stakeholders in a neighborhood. The aging resident gets contact with people that he/she can trust. The neighborhood and service providers benefit from the companionship and reward for assisting someone in need.
Eventually, we will all be in need.
The goal is for seniors to be able to stay in their homes for as long as possible. It is a goal adopted by over 200 communities across the country now, an idea with origins back in 1969 in Massachusetts.
At Tuesday’s meeting Tom LaPointe explained how the Village works in Moscow, Idaho. It’s called My Own Home myownhomemoscow.org and it affords members, who pay to join ($450 for individuals, $550 for couples) the ability to make a single phone call for services like transportation, handyman duties, meals, social activities, care or companionship.
Volunteers from the neighborhood provide most of the services, but professionals who have been screened and vetted are also involved.
The fledgling Boise groups are just getting organized. There are models they can follow, but plenty of room to customize the Villages that could arise in the North and East Ends.
“If we don’t do something now, there won’t be something for people now or for us later,” said Diane Ronayne, one of the Boise organizers who described herself as a “Baby Boomer” born in 1946.
Her co-organizer is Susan Graham, an attorney who specializes in representing Seniors in their legal matters.
“I’m concerned because there are no safety nets for Seniors to continue to live independently,” said Graham, who said the added benefits would be neighborhood cohesiveness and support. “Otherwise these people could lose their life savings trying to pay for care in their homes or moving into nursing facilities, which can be very expensive. ”
If the lady on 17th Street would have had volunteers regularly visiting and providing meals and companionship, perhaps the woman’s life could have been saved and she would be enjoying her neighborhood for years to come — and vice-versa.
We will never know. But we will know that many other seniors who want to stay in their homes will at least get that chance. Who doesn’t have a parent or grandparent who hoped to stay at home rather than be institutionalized?
In some cases it is not possible, but in many cases it is.
We hope the best for Ronayne, Graham and their collaborators in the North and East End neighborhoods. Their willingness to create Villages in Boise — which may take a few years — will pay off by developing the richness of community.
In this era of diminishing government and community service resources, the Village concept can draw upon the plentiful resources of kindness and compassion that Idahoans generously offer.
To learn more about the Boise Village projects, contact Graham via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.