Having frequently heard about Ashby Village, I had only the vaguest notion of what it actually is. But this past week, during an informal discussion group at the Berkeley Town House, lead by Andra Lichtenstein, we were provided details on the history and growth of this organization. (With over 30 years of experience in public and private sectors with a focus on community health centers, and as Planning and Development Director of Lifelong Medical Care, Andra is well qualified to describe the virtues of this very admirable organization.)
Ashby Village is a community based network of people over age 50 living in the greater Bay Area, providing service referrals and resources to its members, making it possible for them to remain in their homes and neighborhoods. The concept began in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood in 2001. More than 56 villages now exist in the United States, with another 120 or so in development. As the longevity unfolds, senior villages will become one of the distinctive and social inventions of our time.
Among the services offered to help people remain independent are help with grocery shopping, walking dogs, transportation and medical appointments, minor household repairs, and exercise and relaxation classes. Membership in Ashby Village is available to residents of Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, Kensington and Emeryville. Annual membership fees are listed on their website: www.ashbyvillage.org. A program currently being developed will make membership available to those with limited incomes.
In 2006, the New York Times published an article about Beacon Hill Village in Boston, the most recognized models of the Village concept. It sparked conversation among Berkeley neighbors who wanted their own aging to be different from that of their parents' generation. Thus, in 2010 Ashby Village was launched and within one short year it now has 161 members, with only one full-time employee, Andy Gaines, who supervises a myriad of committees and activities and home-based volunteer services.
Without question, Ashby Village offers a welcome safety net and peace of mind, an alternative to a retirement community or assisted living facility.