By Laurelle Walsh

A group of Methow Valley senior citizens and health care providers are proposing a new entity they’re calling At Home in the Methow, whose goal is to help people live independently in their homes and remain integrated in the community as they age.

Conceived by Twisp residents Linni Esther and Val Sukovaty, At Home in the Methow would be part of the Village to Village Network, a nationwide network of “Villages” (with a capital “V”), defined as “self-governing, grassroots, community-based organizations that coordinate access to a variety of supportive services to promote aging in place, social integration, health, and well-being,” according to the website www.vtvnetwork.org.

“At Home is still a work in progress, but what came out of local and nationwide surveys was that people want to stay in their own homes,” said Sukovaty at Friday’s Methow Valley Roundtable (March 14).

Sukovaty cited a 2011 community needs assessment by Room One that found that 50 percent of respondents aged 50 – 80 live alone. The same survey also found that 20 percent of the valley’s population is over 65, around 1,100 people “and probably rising,” Esther said.

“At this time we can see no hope of putting together an assisted living facility in the valley, but these people will need assistance at some point to live at home safely and independently,” Sukovaty said.

Existing challenges for seniors include transportation, access to health care, and affordable support services, Sukovaty said. “Many services do already exist in the valley, but they are not coordinated,” she added.

Other tasks such as “home upkeep and simple tasks like changing a light bulb become an issue” for the elderly, Esther said.

 

Coordination needed

The community needs a central organization that could be reached with one telephone call, that would send a volunteer driver or handyman to someone’s home, or schedule a visit by an in-home caregiver, Esther and Sukovaty said.

At Home in the Methow would be a membership organization, run by a manager who would coordinate services, refer members to providers, and interface with local agencies already serving seniors such as the Senior Center, Guardian Angels, the Lookout Coalition and Room One, Sukovaty said. Services such as transportation and home maintenance would be provided by volunteers as much as possible, she added.

Raleigh Bowden of the Lookout Coalition said that her organization has experience conducting background checks, and would facilitate vetting volunteers and paid workers. And, she emphasized, At Home in the Methow would partner with Aging and Adult Care, the state agency that provides services in Central Washington. “We are looking to partner, not duplicate,” Bowden said.

“We are on a pretty swift timeline,” Bowden said of the fledgling organization. “We are ready to hire a coordinator,” who would write a job description for an interim organizational developer, she said. At Home in the Methow would then be ready to hire a manager to raise funds and start operations.

“There are hundreds of Villages around the country already,” said Bowden. “We can pull from the experience of other communities.”

For more information on At Home in the Methow, contact Linni Esther at (360) 333-0386, or Raleigh Bowden at raleighbowden@gmail.com.