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Neighbors at Home: The Northfield Village

woman helping elderly man out of car“I need a man, once a year, with a pickup truck, ladder and chainsaw!” This was one of the replies to the question, “What will it take to keep you in your home and community?” asked of 75 Northfield seniors last year in a series of meetings.  Neighbors at Home, The Northfield Village board of directors, wanted to know if there was interest in forming a Northfield Village and joining the dozens of Villages in Massachusetts and hundreds in the USA. The Village movement began in Boston in 2002 and spread like wildfire. The idea is to form a nonprofit, co-operative organization to help one another to age in place, enjoy our senior years, and stay out of senior facilities as long as possible.

The Village movement began in Boston in 2002 and spread like wildfire.

Northfield has 3000 residents and about 1000 are over the age of 60, rather typical demographics in our area, and the number of seniors is growing. Could our small town be a fertile place for a Village? “Let’s ask,” our board decided. Our board consists of seven volunteers: Tony Stavely, Judy Wagner, Pam Eldridge, Jerry Wagener, Steve Roberto, Ted Thornton, and me, Bill McGee. This group has a wide range of work and career experience: college professors, a city planner, a social worker, a high school teacher, a general contractor and a retired Army officer.

We held three listening meetings asking seniors what they liked about living in Northfield and what they would need to remain in their homes and community. The seniors identified four needs:  transportation, home maintenance, a social worker and help with electronics.

A call for volunteers went out and an enthusiastic response came back from 25 Northfielders, not all seniors. We set up a Drivers Team, a Lend-a-Hand Team, a Social Team and an IT Team.  After a membership drive last spring resulted in nearly 50 seniors joining up, operations began on July 1, 2019.

Here’s how it works:  A member calls Neighbors at Home, 413-225-1029, requesting a service, such as a ride to the hairdresser. The Neighbors at Home call manager lines up a volunteer who then calls the member and arranges the time for the service. In our first month of operation volunteers provided rides for seven members, fixed sticky doorknobs, installed smoke detectors, and made home visits to all of the members. The home visit, conducted by the Social Team and other volunteers, encourages the use of services and allows volunteers to see firsthand how we can help each other.

We chose the term “neighbors” because it means helping each other in a friendly way. We asked our prospective and new members, in the words of Fred Rogers, “Will you be my neighbor?” Northfield residents interested in joining or volunteering can call 413-225-1029.