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GRAY MATTERS: Learning to get older

By Maureen McGarry, For the [Eureka] Times-Standard  | Published on 12/2/2015

Getting older means preparing for the future in a whole new way.


The focus shifts from getting your kids through college or that post-retirement travel adventure to figuring out what comes next.


Realizing the desire to stay in your home, yet feeling less physically able to do household chores, means refocusing your energy and your resources. Recognizing that your days behind the wheel may be numbered is another new reality check. Noticing that social connections are no longer based on soccer trips, work-related activities or family visits, social isolation in later years can take you by surprise.


This is where Redwood Coast Village can help. Preparing now for your future needs, Redwood Coast Village becomes a shared experience with others as you age.


Volunteer Center of the Redwoods and RSVP know that everyone has skills to offer that can help their community.


Now, partnering with the newly developed Redwood Coast Village, volunteers are needed to help move things forward.


“This is a chance to create your own future,” said JoAnn Schuch, Redwood Coast Village Steering Committee member.


As a member-run organization with a small paid staff, the “Village” is made up of volunteers that create a virtual village — not a place, but a concept. Redwood Coast Village members offer their skills to help each other. Volunteers of all ages who are not members can also contribute their time and skills.


“Joining RCV can be a win-win,” said Sherman Schapiro, another Steering Committee member. “You not only help others remain living at home, but in turn others will be able to help you. Annual dues are just a fraction of what one month in a care home would cost. If joining RCV helps you maintain your current residence for a few months or even a year longer, dues end up being a very small price to pay.”


Creating villages is a growing movement, with nearly 170 in existence and almost an equal number in development. The local effort has been supported by the Area 1 Agency on Aging and grants from St. Joseph Care for the Poor and the McLean Foundation. These grants helped A1AA provide staffing, technical assistance, financial reporting, office space and the nonprofit status needed for Redwood Coast Village to get started. Redwood Coast Village has also received individual donations from many people who are eager to see a local village develop. Recently, the Union Labor Health Foundation provided funds to support a small number of scholarships for low-income Redwood Coast Village membership.


“Volunteer services could include rides to an appointment, walking your dog or hanging a picture in your house — things that might be harder to do as you have gotten older,” said Schuch.


“Helping with modern technology such as computers, cell phones, and even a television remote, will be important volunteer skills,” said Schapiro.


Tasks such as distributing brochures, answering phones and keeping up the email list are current volunteer jobs. People who like planning and coordinating are also needed. Already established committees include the Membership Committee, Volunteer Management Committee and Fund-raising Committee.


There will be a meeting at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center at 921 Waterfront Drive in Eureka — supported by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute — on Wednesday from noon to 1:30 pm. This will be a chance for interested community members to learn more, give feedback, ask questions and sign up to get involved.

“The process of getting older is fresh for all of us,” Schuch said. “We all have to learn how to do it. Knowing you are not alone and doing it as a group can make it easier.”


Maureen McGarry is the project director for RSVP/VCOR, a program of the Area 1 Agency on Aging.