Ashby Village, Berkeley’s first venture to help residents age in the community, went live with its services yesterday. It joins around 100 other “villages” across the country that provide services and support to enable people to stay in their neighborhoods rather than move into assisted living or skilled nursing facilities.

“People really wanted to stay in their beautiful Berkeley homes,” explains Janis Brewer, executive director of the non-profit, volunteer-led Ashby Village. According to Brewer, a small group of local residents came up with the idea for Ashby Village nearly three years ago. They modeled the project on the pioneer effort, Beacon Hill Village, which was founded in Boston in 2001.

Ashby Village is a membership organization, with fees currently ranging from $675 per year for individuals to $1,080 per year for households. Members have access to what Brewer calls “an army of volunteers” and a service provider network. Service providers have been recommended by members and Ashby Village has negotiated special rates with some of them. Volunteers “do anything that wouldn’t be done by our providers”, says Brewer. That could range from changing the battery in a smoke alarm for an 82-year old member to picking up a prescription.

In addition, the group does a lot of work to build connections between members: member-only events at least twice a month, lunch groups, movie clubs and speaker series are among the activities.

Brewer is currently the only paid staff member, working 20 hours a week. She said Ashby Village is engaged in a search for a full-time executive director.

Ashby Village launched with 85 members and a nascent volunteer network. Brewer says they hope to have the volunteer network largely complete by the end of the summer. Membership is open to anyone aged 55 or older living in Berkeley, Rockridge, Albany, Kensington, Emeryville or El Cerrito.

Photo of volunteers courtesy of Ashby Village

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...