Clayton Valley Village puts a different slant on retirement

By John Jackson on May 19, 2014

mariapic_small_edited_for websiteClayton’s senior community is looking to a new model of “aging in place” to stay active, build relationships and have practical needs met, all while living at home for a longer period of time. Maria Xiaris, a Clayton resident and the founder of the Clayton Valley Village, believes that a village system is a model that Clayton is primed to embrace.

“It’s time for a village in Clayton where we support one another as we age,” she says.

Stay in own homes

The intent is to let people stay in their own homes as long as possible, says Xiaris, and to offer “a retirement community akin to a Rossmoor without the bricks and mortar.”

To accomplish this, the village provides a concierge service of sorts to members who pay monthly dues, typically between $40-$50. Different villages across the country offer varying services that may include transportation, fix-it help, seminar offerings, recreation classes, or friendly visits.

For instance, there may be a member who has a shopping trip or doctor’s visit to which they need a ride. The village will set up a security-checked employee to assist them and keep them good company. The village may also arrange for local merchants to work with them, offering meeting spaces and vetting many of them to negotiate discounts for members of the village.

Already, Xiaris says that the Clayton Library and Diamond Terrace Retirement Center are on board to collaborate on ways to add services or meeting spaces.

Assistance from community

Xiaris will help survey Clayton residents to discover what are the most desirable services for the village. She will create a network from those results made up of both professionals and volunteers who will serve the needs of the membership. The offerings of the village will simply reflect the needs of the people in the community.

As Joan Cole and her husband Bob began to grow older, the prospect of moving into a retirement or senior’s center was not appealing to them. As the couple had their house rebuilt from the devastation of the Oakland hills fire, they resolved to stay at home as long as possible.

“It was our wish to be in the new home until our last breaths,” says Joan Cole. This is when the Coles found the Ashby Village in the Berkeley area, a senior community formed to allow the elderly to “age in place.” This concept is the one upon which Xiaris would like to build the Clayton Valley Village.

“The service that Ashby Village has provided me is a personal assistant who is helping me with my desk and organizational work,” says Joan Cole. “The volunteer comes as needed and helps me get rid of ‘stuff.’ She is a delight to work with.”

The village concept began more than 10 years ago in the Boston area at the Beacon Hill Village with a dozen seniors who wanted to live at home longer. Now, it has 340 members and extensive services including weekly trips to the grocery store, group exercise classes, topical lectures, and rides around the area. The village is also able to offer discounted rates on home repair from local repairmen. Since the inception of Beacon Hill, more than 200 villages are now open or in development around the country as “aging in place” gathers steam. Of those villages, 14 of them are in the Bay Area and the Berkeley chapter is quite sizeable.

“Ashby Village launched in July, 2010, and we have 289 members and 244 volunteers (50% of whom are members),” says Andy Gaines, Executive Director of the Ashby Village. Walnut Creek and Lamorinda are joining Clayton Valley Village in the startup effort.

At this point, Xiaris and the Clayton Valley Village are in the early planning phase, including seeking network providers and interested help.

“We’re now building relationships and giving information on how to get involved in the development phase,” she says. Very key to this will be an upcoming meeting at 7 p.m. on June 4 the Clayton Library, where residents will receive information on how they can get involved, how the village will run, and the general timeline of the implementation of the village.

Xiaris believes that the village concept can revolutionize the way that Clayton thinks about getting older. “My aim is to make this community such a place that when people walk through, they can see and feel the difference. They’ll be able to see that we are more active in our aging. The idea is to shift our perspective of aging.”

For more information on the Clayton Valley Village, attend the information meeting at 7 p.m. on June 4 at the Clayton Community Library. Or visit www.claytonvalleyvillage.org.

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