The month of May is recognized as the nation’s observance of Older Americans Month (OAM) and aims to change the narrative surrounding aging.
The Administration for Community Living is a government organization that provides resources for older Americans and highlights OAM with a yearly theme. The 2023 theme is “Aging Unbound,” which is geared to offer “an opportunity to explore diverse aging experiences and discuss how communities can combat stereotypes.”
The ACL’s goal is to promote “flexible thinking” about aging in America, which is also what local non-profit Berea Home Village is doing through their services.
Katie Heckman, executive director of Berea Home Village, is a strong advocate for the program and the services it provides
“I think it’s amazing having this program in a place like Berea. We really are a special town,” Heckman said.
Berea Home Village doesn’t reside in a brick-and-mortar building, instead it exists as a contact for branching older people to volunteers who want to engage with them and assist with their needs.
“We are not a nursing home or assisted living facility. That’s a common misconception,” Heckman explained. “Our members live in their own homes and we really work to help them stay there by providing volunteers to take them to get haircuts, go to doctor’s appointments, and make connections.”
The Berea Home Village also offers educational programs and commits to phone call check-ins of their members on a regular basis to alleviate loneliness and isolation.
The main goal of the program is to keep older citizens active in the community and living where they are comfortable, for as long as possible. They aim to uplift older Americans by helping maintain their sense of independence and combat typical aging challenges.
“They’re able to still live at home and call up and make arrangements for a driver all on their own. They don’t have to call their daughters or family members for things they need,” Heckman explained of some of the organization’s services.
Berea Home Village brought their services to the area about five years ago, and are currently helping over 50 members — all in their 60s and 70s — to live a fulfilling life at home with their assistance.
In Kentucky, there are only two “villages” — Bardstown and Berea. Areas like Richmond, Lexington, and other surrounding towns need and want village services, but “they just need volunteers and the funding to do so,” Heckman said.
She also emphasized the need for more volunteers and funding locally, so they can take on more citizens that need assistance, train volunteers, and provide subsidies to low-income members.
The village concept adopted by BHV originated over 20 years ago in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston.
“It’s interesting that this model can work in an urban area with high income residents and also a rural area where people don’t have high income. It shows they really just want to get out and connect,” Heckman said. “The village model time has come. It’s absolutely shown to be so important for older Americans and the community.”
Those looking to get involved with helping the BHV can look out for their annual Churchill’s fundraising event in September, as well as a planned “GIVE65” event in July where donations given during a certain timeframe are doubled.
Heckman said the organization’s Facebook page and website, www.bereahomevillage.org, will have more details and updates on these events in the future.
“We are not a medical model, we are a social model. If anyone has a need for transportation or feels lonely and wants to link with a group of exciting people fighting age discrimination, we would love for them to join us — either as members or volunteers.” Heckman said.
If you or someone you know is aged 50 or older, mobile, lives in the 40403 zip code, and is in need of Berea Home Village services, or would like to be a volunteer, contact the BHV office at 859-985-0099 between 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
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