By KENDRA SITTON | Uptown News
Seniors in Mission Hills are working to form a close-knit virtual village to support each other in their golden years. The group has begun meeting at the Mission Hills-Hillcrest Library every-other Monday morning to socialize and hear from speakers about relevant topics, such as how to avoid scams targeting seniors.
At their most recent event on Nov. 18, attorney Dawn Stahl presented on Estate Planning: Trusts, Wills and Probate. To the 20 seniors gathered in the library’s community room, she was able to bust myths and provide general advice on the best way to organize finances ahead of death.
Some of the people welcoming guests, checking them in, and introducing the speaker are part of the five-women team that helped launch the group they are calling Age in Place 92103. While they may have left careers as doctors, therapists, military consultants and environmental lawyers, they are far from slowing down.
Gina Bravo, the branch manager for the library, commended the women for taking initiative with starting the program.
“Some of them are from our Friends of the Library group and they approached me about doing more programming and I relish the opportunity to collaborate with the senior community since that’s an area of service we haven’t really addressed at the new branch. It works really well to have people of the community help decide what programs to do for the community,” Bravo said.
They want to help build a virtual village in Mission Hills. Virtual villages are a growing nationwide movement aimed at helping seniors age well while living at home. The volunteers in Mission Hills are letting fellow seniors sign up to receive a phone call every day, get rides to the doctor or shopping, and have a list of trusted resources.
“A couple years ago, I was with a different group and it fell apart because too many of the members said, ‘Why do we need this? If we want a daily call we can get Elder Help San Diego to do this. If we want shopping, we can just call Vons and they’ll deliver. If we want rides, we can get Uber and Lyft,’” said Judy Wenkler, who helps run the group. “To me all that is good stuff if you know how to use it, if you’re tech savvy.”
Organizer Sharon Grodner pointed out those are all separate services with no central database, so it is harder to navigate.
“The goal is to stay in your home,” said Deni Carpenter, one of the organizers.
“Most seniors want to do that,” said Wenkler.
The county has a similar initiative with Age Well, but this group has localized it just for Mission Hills seniors. The enclave does not have its own senior center, so the library meetups are some of the only organized ways for seniors to hang out regularly in the area.
Bravo said the meetups are also helping the fledgling library grow.
“It definitely creates a nice atmosphere here after their meetings. We’ve seen more seniors coming in getting library cards, asking about other resources, and in general we’ve seen more people coming through our doors that we haven’t seen before which is always the goal — to reach out to new groups of people. Letting folks know that what we do isn’t just holding on to books, we have a lot of other services and we’re quickly becoming a place where people can connect with one another,” the branch manager said.
While the seniors currently meet the second and fourth Monday of the month, they are considering expanding to every Monday and having some days just for playing games and socializing. They will be throwing a holiday party at their next meeting at 10 a.m. on Dec. 2. The group has put together a survey for seniors to see what they want out of their last years and from the community. Those results will be presented at the meeting.
They are also working on gaining 501(c)(3) status so they can become an official village and join the national village-to-village network.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at email@example.com.