GLENS FALLS -- Nancy Wilder is planning for her senior years one helping hand at a time.
She and her mother joined Aging in Place Glens Falls as a team about four years ago, as her mother’s health was failing. The network remained a major support for Wilder as she dealt with her mother’s death.
“After she died, I decided that even though I’m a younger person, I would stay involved,” said Wilder, who is in her early 50s.
Aging in Place Glens Falls is a network of people dedicated to providing elderly residents with the help they need to remain safely in their own homes. The group was started in 2007 by Harvey Noordsy and other area residents, and it has grown from 15 to 65 members across several local communities.
A $20 annual membership fee covers the cost of mailings and website maintenance, and the volunteer services rendered are treated like a “time bank,” where people who provide a service to others earn the ability to call for help when it’s needed.
Wilder pointed out the system isn’t nearly as strict as a bank account, though. Many volunteers — particularly younger ones like Wilder — provide far more volunteer hours than they “withdraw.”
Still, she knows a time is coming when she’ll be on the other end of the call.
Wilder was in a car crash about 15 years ago and suffered a severe head injury, she said. It effectively ended her teaching career, but she has found she’s good at helping others with some essential services.
Those include transportation to and from doctors’ appointments, cooking and helping with computer questions, although she has also called on others for help in the latter subject.
She has also hosted gatherings at her house to strengthen connections among members.
Noordsy, who is president of the nonprofit agency’s board of
directors, said the biggest obstacle for Aging in Place Glens Falls has been helping people feel comfortable enough with the network to call for aid when it’s needed.
“Asking for help is the hardest thing,” he said. “People are willing to offer it, but you have to ask for it, too, for it to work.”
So gatherings like those hosted by Wilder help to build the Aging in Place community, Noordsy said.
“It’s the social interaction that makes it possible to call someone at 6 a.m. and say, ‘I’ve been up for 18 hours with my mother in the hospital, would you please go let the dogs out at my house?’” Wilder said.
The gatherings themselves are often potluck dinners, at which everyone is encouraged to bring containers to take home enough food for several meals, Wilder said.
The network doesn’t replace friends, family and neighbors, Wilder said. She knows she can call on others to help out, but the Aging in Place network gives her another option when others aren’t available.
“It’s another list of people you can call on for help,” she said.
Aging in Place Glens Falls is considering joining forces with Full Circle America, a nationwide network that provides a similar volunteer force of seniors helping seniors. But that program also incorporates in-home technologies, such as door sensors, cameras and instant-on video communication, to improve members’ ability to age in place safely.
Dr. Paul Bachman, who has been a physician with Hudson Headwaters Health Network in the Adirondacks for 27 years, is working with Noordsy and other area health care providers to launch a pilot program involving three or four local elderly residents.
“I think the most important aspect of this is developing a social support network,” Bachman said. “To be looking in on people and communicating with them in the old-fashioned way — face-to-face visitations — so we’re avoiding people feeling lonely and alone.
“The technology is nice, and it’s become inexpensive now, and it’s sort of a sexy add-on to the whole idea, but it’s really all about seniors supporting seniors.”