Aging can be a difficult. Retiree Charlie Day knows that when people opt for a retirement home, they are giving up a lot. “You lose your neighborhood, your ties with friends,” explained Day, “you’re losing money because you have to sell your home to get into these [retirement] homes.”
Health issues can bring about more complications and expenses. “People don’t know about living wills and why it’s important to have a primary doctor. They don’t have knowledge of where their medical records are, how case managers can help you at hospitals, and how to get the right care,” said Day.
Day felt that there should be an alternative. He liked the idea of “aging in place,” staying in his own home, his own community and building a neighborhood network of support. He talked with some neighbors about the idea of starting a volunteer-based organization that would provide services and programs for older neighbors, and ultimately help them remain living in their own homes in East Falls.
To create East Falls Village (EFV), Day says he and his fellow neighbors began doing their research. Day traveled to other village groups like Beacon Hill Village in Boston, to learn the ropes of running a village community. From the beginning, Day received support for the project from the East Falls Community Council (EFCC).
The group applied for a grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development. Once they received the grant, they were able to hire a consultant, and what began as a small idea in 2008 became a reality in 2011 under the umbrella of the EFCC.
EFV offers members assistance with transportation and have a number of social programs, including potluck dinners and group walks for exercise. Through their Vetted Vendor program, members receive services (like weather-proofing, electrical and plumbing) at a discounted rate.
“You reach a point where you begin to think about your future,” said Day, “maybe you’re not as mobile as you once were.”
Day is a part of the Operating Group at EFV, which consists of a handful of people who produce events throughout the year. They focus on marketing, driving membership, social planning, active-learning experiences and village services.
Group members take turns being responsible for responding to the needs of other members. They use one cell phone that’s “passed around like a baton,” as each committee member takes a turn on duty. “We have committed people,” said Day, “I can’t do it myself.”
EFV’s hosts active-learning classes on topics ranging from Social Security to Medicare for their members. They network with the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Philadelphia and Mt. Airy Learning Tree for classroom instructors. “I’ve been working to get more education available,” said Day. “With the health care system in this country the question is: Who helps the people who can afford to help themselves, but don’t know where to turn?”
A huge part of Day’s role is networking. He works to connect each member with services and volunteers who can meet their needs, “I feel good when we’re able to help someone,” said Day, “one of our volunteers is a retired IBM specialist, and was able to help one of our members become computer literate.”
Anne Hagele sent an email to nominate Day for his work with East Falls Village.
Charlie has provided the strong, gentle leadership needed to bring together a diverse group of people to address their own needs and those of their older neighbors. Without his dedication and hard-work East Falls Village would not be a valued part of our community today.
Day sees a growing future for EFV, and hopes for expansion into Mt. Airy, Roxborough and Chestnut Hill. He says the group is an opportunity for people to feel more a part of a community. “You just need neighbors who have a sense of community.”