Independence, security, community and health; these are all key ingredients in our happiness. It is also what The Athens Village tries to provide for its members, Athens residents ages 60 and older living in their own homes. Instead of a physical facility or retirement community, it serves as a safety net, a helping hand and an advisor.
The mission of the nonprofit organization is simple but important: to help senior citizens of the Athens community to live independently, comfortably, and safely in their homes for just $400 per year per person or $700 per household.
The 90-member group is organized and managed entirely by its members. The staff includes Patty Mercer, the director, and Lane Hoisington.
Hoisington acts as the Home Maintenance Supervisor, and provides a home safety assessment once per year along with home maintenance as needed—all free of charge to members.
This is just one of a multitude of benefits given to members of The Athens Village. Members are able to catch a ride from volunteers or other members to the grocery store, doctor’s office, and many other areas in Athens. These same volunteers also help members with technical issues involving computers, smartphones and the Internet. The Village offers home health services information from housekeeping to personal care or nursing and therapy services.
Monthly brown-bag lunches allow members to socialize with one another. Guest speakers at the lunches discuss relevant issues, such as health and investments. The Village’s latest guest speaker was Dr. Atul Gawande, an Athens native and best-selling author of the book Being Mortal.
The Athens Village’s website illustrates the immense amount of social involvement encouraged through the organization. For example, every Tuesday, the Village offers chair-yoga and an informal gathering of members and guests at Bob Evans. The Village hosts hearing aid interest groups and caregivers support meetings to better equip and enable their senior members. The Village advocates for its members and all other senior citizens at the local and state level. In addition, the organization maintains a personal relationship with its members, calling them during inclement weather or emergencies to ensure their welfare. Seniors voices often are muffled, but The Athens Village provides them the ability to be heard.
“I felt as if this is an organization that is trying to keep you in your own home, able to get along there,” explained Anne McClanahan, a member of the Village. “I just think it’s important to have a group that has that focus.”
There are various ways to support The Athens Village. Individuals or companies can become service providers to assist members with home repair, transportation, and food delivery. Volunteers are the heart and soul of the Village; without them the nonprofit could not provide the services it does. Donors can make a tax-deductible donation, and sponsors can offer membership to parents, friends, or to whomever they would like.
Organizations like The Athens Village are sprouting up across the country as an alternative to assisted-living facilities. It allows senior citizens in the Athens community to age in the comfort of their own homes, giving back in some small part to those who spent their lives contributing to the wellbeing of the Athens community.
“One of the things that all the research shows is that social engagement is what keeps people young. If you’re isolated, there are so many risk factors that go up in terms of healthy aging,” Mercer said. “So we need to get people out and involved and appreciating each other.”