New nonprofit pairs seniors, volunteers to enable elderly to remain home longer

Beck Royer admitted she was pretty picky about who would care for her aging mother in Kennewick.

The Seattle woman, a physician’s assistant for 31 years, knew she found the right place with Tender Care Village.

The new nonprofit, which was registered with the state a year ago, is part of a national network to help establish and manage communities wanting to offer aging-in-place initiatives called “villages.” It pairs seniors with volunteers.

For an annual fee, village members can tap into a network of screened volunteers for non-medical assistance, like rides to the grocery store or doctor’s offices, light home maintenance, seasonal yard chores or companionship.

“Whether you’re dying or getting older, the Tri-Cities needs something like this. A lot of people can’t pay $40 an hour to have someone come over. Mom was on a limited budget and this worked for us,” Royer said.

Royer, 66, said the Tender Care Village allowed her mom, 94-year-old Phyllis Royer, to stay at home until her March 17 death.

“I highly recommend it. If I was in town, I would be volunteering for them,” she said, explaining that her mother didn’t want to move or be placed in an assisted living facility.

Royer’s wife Judi Fisher said Tender Care Village helped her mother-in-law get organized and find a way to enjoy a quality life at home despite the onset of dementia.

Village volunteers played cards with her, took her to Fred Meyer to buy organizational materials, helped with her meals and drove her to doctor’s appointments, Fisher said.

 

How it works

Tender Care Village, which is a member of the national Village to Village Network, is an all-volunteer nonprofit. Its mission is designed to assist residents age 50 and over in the Tri-Cities and West Richland so they can stay at home as they age.

Members pay a single annual fee of $192 per household for up to two adults for access to resources, non-medical services and social opportunities. For those who sign up in May, the cost is $150.

Proceeds pay for the group’s insurance, a $400 annual membership to the national group, background checks for volunteers and office materials and other supplies.

“We’re trying to keep costs as low as we can,” said Traci Wells of Kennewick, the director and president of the group.

Seniors can request services with a one-call-does-it-all approach. And members soon will be able to log onto a computer to add requests for assistance.

Screened volunteers can review their requests and choose a task that matches their abilities and interest—from changing a light bulb to providing a ride to the doctor.

“It’s a neighbors-helping-neighbors approach,” Wells said.

The village intends to fill the gaps, not duplicate, services already available in the Tri-Cities, Wells said.

The group does not provide medical care, toileting assistance or wheelchair transfers.

The village has been operating for the past six months with 13 members and about 15 volunteers.

“It’s not a question of if you’re going to need it but when,” said Ron Hines of Kennewick, Wells’ father. He is a member and a volunteer.

Initial interest in the group has occurred mostly by word of mouth, said Wells, who has been working to create the village for about two years.

The 56-year-old worked with seniors diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s as a social worker for six years.

She ran the village network idea by her mother, Joan Hines, and mother-in-law, Patricia Wells, both of Kennewick.

“They said it sounded cool. My mom came up with the name. My mother-in-law designed the logo. We went door to door in Kennewick and got a core group of people together,” Traci Wells said.

From those 300 or so house visits, they recruited some dedicated volunteers, said Patricia Wells, her mother-in-law.

“When you get older, you’re not as agile as you used to be,” Patricia Wells said. “It’s difficult to climb a ladder and replace a lightbulb. And you can’t lift like you used to.”

 

Informational meeting

The group will hold an open house as part of its official launch from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 2 at the Kennewick branch of Mid-Columbia Libraries, 1620 S. Union St.

The group will accept applications for members and volunteers and answering any questions the public may have.

For more information, call 509-290-0617, email tendercarevillage@gmail.com or visit  tendercarevillage.org.

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