Aging in Place, Norwich works to strengthen our community by helping people stay in their homes as long as possible despite physical challenges. These monthly service days are making a small start. (Aging in Place, Norwich—flyer for previous service day)
I began this series on Aging in the Upper Valley approximately a month ago, with my commentary on the Death Café. Since then, I have read and reviewed Atul Gawande’s book, Being Mortal, and written of his vision of conversations about end-of-life choices, played out over dinner by the good people of Lyme, NH. In speaking with numerous deans and doyennes of the movements dealing with aging in one form or another, every person I spoke with gave me lists of names and organizations I had to investigate; no one believed they were accomplishing anything of importance alone. And virtually everyone recommended that I speak with Judy Pond.
Judy Pond is the Service Coordinator for Aging in Place, Norwich (AIPN), a position created in 2009, when Judy attended an initial meeting of the group and, at a later meeting, found herself alone in the “volunteers corner.” Like many aging in place programs, immediate needs of older residents often center around household chores and yard work. Judy’s plan was simple: she compiled a list of older people in Norwich who might need some help, and asked them to identify what each of them required. She recruited a number of volunteers, some individuals, some families with their kids. Then she matched them up. She has been doing so every month or two ever since.
Washing a patio umbrella, weed -whacking, clearing up the mysteries of an iPad, vacuuming—all manner of chores that don’t require a professional license have been on the list. One person wanted a Scrabble partner, another a luncheon companion. Someone requested a person with whom they could have tea and discuss books. In typical Upper Valley mode, everything is pretty informal. A few flyers are printed and hung around town (certainly at Dan and Whit’s) but many people find their way to Judy through word of mouth and small-town familiarity with neighbors. Judy powers up her phone and starts calling. While another Norwich resident, Robert Pitiger, formerly on the board of AIPN, arranges transportation anytime via volunteers for many in Norwich who need it, Judy does that too, once helping someone, perhaps subject to simple cabin fever, who just wanted to “go for a drive.” The Norwich Historical Society donates space for meetings and serves as a staging area for the volunteers, where Judy and other AIPN board members greet them and express appreciation.
Judy estimates that each service day brings help to 8 or 10 or 12 people. She too modestly characterizes it as a small contribution. I have spoken with many people who are doing important work in more global and sometimes theoretical realms, all of which is moving the issue of aging in place, or sometimes elsewhere, along. Her program is human in scale and mighty in result. It shows the power of one, with helpers.
Contact information if you need or want to offer help: firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-649-1420