Patt Opdyke still has a lot of living to do. The retired journalist and community organizer lives in a tidy house in North Portland’s Portsmouth neighborhood. “I’ve been working away at this place for 18 years and loving it,” says the 71-year-old. “It was the first home I’d ever bought...and they’ll take me out feet first.” That attitude strikes a chord with Villages NW founder Anne Andler. And she’s hard at work to ensure Opdyke and her fellow seniors (270,000 in the Portland metro area and counting) can spend their golden years at home rather than an assisted-care facility.
Andler’s innovative nonprofit is creating a network of membership-driven neighborhood “villages” in and around the city, each providing services to help people “age-in-place interdependently.” That includes everything from car rides and social gatherings to help with household chores and referrals for trustworthy plumbers and electricians. Villages NW’s pilot Eastside Village launched in October, and three more villages will debut in early 2016, with more on the way. Neighborhood volunteers, including the seniors themselves, run each “village” while Villages NW acts as their back office, mentor, and “mother ship.”
Another reason to become Village people? According to a 2010 study in the Fiscal Times, the median monthly cost for nursing home care in 2009 was $5,243. An Eastside Village membership? $540 a year. “This is going to be people’s retirement plan,” says Andler, 61. “We are gonna change what it means to grow old in Portland.”