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SAIL Hosted a  Special Webinar Commemorating the 15th Anniversary of the Birth of the Village to Village Movement.

SAIL on ‘Village to Village’ cutting edge

September 29, 2017

Vanessa McGuigan - Chronicle Staff , Shepherdstown Chronicle

Shepherdstown Area Independent Living (SAIL) hosted a gathering at Erma Ora Byrd Hall on Monday for a special webinar commemorating the 15th anniversary of the birth of the Village to Village movement.

This growing social movement of helping older citizens to "age in place" began in the Beacon Hill area of Boston where aging residents wanted to continue to live and stay engaged in their own homes and community, but recognized that they would need support as they aged. A proactive group of people 50 and older began to look at alternatives to conventional choices facing seniors. What began there as a grassroots movement of a "village" concept, quickly became a model for other forward thinking communities globally.

More than 7,000 people, representing 175 villages worldwide tuned in for the webinar which featured Robin Young from NPR interviewing nationally known surgeon, public health researcher and best-selling author of the book, "Being Mortal," by Dr. Atul Gawande.

Dr. Atul Gawande

            Dr. Atul Gawande

Beacon Hill Village President, Harold Caroll made opening statements.

"There are 10,000 people per day who turn 65," Caroll said. "These people deserve the chance to make choices about where they live and how they live their lives."

Lack of access to services is one of the things can prevent seniors from remaining in their homes. Even seemingly small things like being unable to change a lightbulb and other minor household repairs can force aging people out of their homes. The villages have a positive impact on issues plaguing seniors and preventing them from aging gracefully and with dignity in their own homes.

"In healthcare, and in society in general, we assume that health and survival is the top priority," Gawande said. "The trouble is, we don't know what to do when health isn't possible. There are things bigger than health and survival. There is well-being."

Gawande referenced Bill Thomas, author, international authority on geriatric medicine and eldercare, and self-proclaimed "nursing home abolitionist", who stated that the three plagues of old age are boredom, loneliness and helplessness. Thomas' conclusion that nursing homes exacerbate these conditions caused him to look for alternatives to traditional institutionalized nursing homes.

"What is home?" Gawande asked. "The reason it doesn't feel like home in these places (nursing homes) is because you don't have choices. You don't get to take risks. There are certain times you have to go to bed and wake up. You have prescribed activities. There are institutional rules. You don't have autonomy.
The Villages movement is really about the idea of what people demand-to have autonomy all the way across the length of life. To have your wishes expressed and realized in your daily life as you move through what is now an 80 plus year life span.

Run by volunteers and paid staff, the villages are non-profit, member-driven communities. Shepherdstown Area Independent Living (SAIL), one such village, was incorporated by the state of West Virginia on Nov. 10, 2010 as the very first aging-in-place village in the state.

Much like the other villages, SAIL offers many social gatherings for its members. Monthly lunches, Kennedy Center outings, Wolf Trap concerts, museum visits, exercises and trivia nights are just a sampling of how members can avoid isolation and be stimulated in engaging ways.

Additional benefits to the 100 members of SAIL include things like grocery shopping help, rides to appointments, assistance with computers or other technology, vetted contractors, pet care, snow removal and help with chores when needed.

The members of SAIL have each joined for individual reasons, but enjoy the feeling of friendship and community the group provides.

Gawande did make it clear that people often do eventually need some higher level of care and it's important to establish a pathway to leave the home that involves good communication and exploration of all options.

"It is not a failure if you need more help and can't manage. The goal is that we are trying to enable people's autonomy no matter their situation. Sometimes it's more important that people get to have those extra years in their home, in their community, and then ultimately be connected into places that still value the same values. The goal is a good life all the way to the very end," Gawande said.

Fall Picnic
September 24, 2017

The Annual SAIL Fall Picnic was once again held at the picturesque and beautiful Ross Home. Forty-six members, volunteers, and friends attended the gala event on the afternoon of Sunday, September 24. The weather was perfect and the pot-luck food offerings were appreciated by all in attendance.
SAIL President Carolyn Rodis expressed special appreciation to Elinor Ross for hosting the Picnic. Carolyn also thanked Martha Young and Ted Walton for planning and coordinating such a successful event.
At the conclusion of the festivities it was wonderful to have many attendees help with the clean up efforts. A good time was had by all!

Sail's Creation

SAIL's creation is rooted in the "Village Movement", a neighbor helping neighbor system developed around the country by seniors who are assisted by other members of their community.  SAIL provides members with help going to and from the grocery store and appointments, with simple home repairs, with access to reliable service providers, with organized outings to cultural events, and fun activities such as walking groups, board game and card groups, and more.  SAIL membership is open to anyone interested in its services who lives in the 876 and 870 telephone exchanges.

 “Keeping the wind in our sails!”