Seniors get help from village support network

Bob Wendlinger of Oakland has dementia and it kept him from writing his memoir. That's when his wife reached out to an organization called Ashby Village which provides volunteers. An audio version of his life was recently completed.

"I don't think I would have finished it. So I feel good about the whole thing," said Wendlinger.

Ashby Village has 170 senior members and 60 volunteers serving Berkeley, El Cerrito, Albany, Kensington, Emeryville and a small portion of Oakland.

"And they offer assistance in transportation, in home improvement, home care, cooking, gardening, dog walking, whatever people's needs are that help them to continue living independently," said Ashby Village executive director Andy Gaines.

It's not cheap; it's $750 a year per person -- about $62 a month. But those who can afford it, say they get a lot of support. For example, Wendlinger's wife, Joan Cole, sings in a chorus every Thursday night.

"I don't like leaving Bob alone, so I ask for a volunteer who could be with Bob and have movie night here," said Cole.

Currently, there are other villages nationwide with about 11,000 senior members. The Village To Village Network met on Monday in Oakland to discuss adding more villages. San Francisco already has two.

"If they fall and break a hip or if they have a stroke, nobody knows that's going to happen until it's too late," said Jonee Levy from Next Village San Francisco.

A report from the city and county of San Francisco points out that in 2008 there were about 160,000 seniors or 20 percent of the population. It's now estimated that by 2030 San Francisco will have more than 250,000 seniors.

More services for seniors will be needed.

"The family that used to be there, the children grow up and go away," said Mark Goldman, a Albany Village volunteer.

He says more volunteers will be needed to support an ever growing aging population.

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