What do you do when you reach a stage in your life where you are still active but some everyday tasks become more difficult to manage, or you lose your ability to drive safely, and yet you want to remain in your home and in your community?
That question was often a topic for the Pleasant Valley Book Group, which was formed 30 years ago by women living in the Cambridge and Underhill area of Pleasant Valley.
Several of the members took this question to the next level and helped start Mount Mansfield Villages, a nonprofit membership organization for residents of Cambridge, Underhill and Jericho. Based on a national organization called the Village to Village Network, each “village” is comprised of members who join for an annual fee and are able to request services provided by volunteers of the organization.
Services range from rides to appointments, to the grocery store or other locations. Add in small home repairs, friendly visits, daily phone checks and technology assistance, to name a few. A list of recommended service providers (plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc.) is available for members to hire. Social and educational events are also offered.
Why is this needed? People are getting older! Vermont is the second-oldest state (by median age) in the nation. And by 2030, if current trends continue, almost 27 percent of Vermont’s population will be age 65 or older, up from about 18 percent in 2017. This will create even more need for support and services for aging neighbors.
In addition, we are becoming increasingly isolated. We have less family support. More people live alone and sometimes far from a town center. Often the privacy that we cherish can turn into loneliness. There are few options for housing that enable older adults to stay in their communities.
Mount Mansfield Villages started providing services to its members on June 1, 2019. It has more than over 25 volunteers who have completed an orientation training and background checks, and there’s a growing list of recommended service providers.
The board of directors is working hard to provide opportunities for neighbors to remain active, socially connected, and independent in their homes and communities for as long as possible.
If you live in Cambridge, Underhill, or Jericho and are over age 50, you can become a member by visiting mountmansfieldvillages .org and filling out an application, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling 802-858-5381 (leave a message and someone will call you back). The annual fee is modest and there’s assistance for those who financially qualify.
Don’t need services yet? Become a volunteer, donor/sponsor, or service provider to help sustain the organization.
As one member of the book group said, “I’m going to volunteer now because I want to know that Mount Mansfield Villages will be there for me and my husband in the future, should we need it.”
Several upcoming events that are free and open to the public:
• Free document-shredding party Aug. 10, 9 to noon, at Union Bank, Route 15 in Jericho (next to the Jericho Market). Bring mail and confidential papers that you want to dispose of safely. Don’t know what to keep and what to shred? Here’s some advice: suzeorman.com/resources/record-keeping.
• HomeFit presentation, Aug. 21, 6-8 p.m. at the Underhill Town Hall. The AARP HomeFit Guide, its designers say, “was created to help people stay in the homes they love by turning where they live into a ‘lifelong home,’ suitable for themselves and anyone in their household. The guide offers solutions that range from simple do-it-yourself fixes to improvements that are more involved and require skilled expertise but are well worth the expense.” (aarp.org; search for “HomeFit.”)
• “End of Life Doula” presentation, Sept. 12, 6-8 p.m. at Varnum Library, Jeffersonville. “End of Life Doulas strive to make the dying process as peace-filled and beautiful as possible. We get to know the dying person and their family, provide an environment that honors their wishes and fulfills their end of life needs, and can make the last days and hours comfortable, peaceful, and richly meaningful.” (endoflifedoulasvt.com)
Information: mountmansfieldvillages.org, 802-858-5381.