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Seniors can join 'Village Without Walls' Oct. 1

Intentional living communities and micro-villages might sound like the latest hipster trend, but starting Oct. 1, seniors in Forest Grove, Cornelius, Hillsboro and Aloha will have the option to “age in place” with help from a new local nonprofit that’s part of a bigger nationwide movement.

Village Without Walls aims to help seniors live at home and maintain their independence as they age. It will charge membership dues well below the average annual cost of a retirement home — perhaps $300 per year or $540 for Member Plus status.

Unlike residents of retirement or nursing homes, members of Village Without Walls will live at home and receive an individualized set of services, according to Governing Council Chair Maggie Lynch. For some, that just means some company.

“Probably 70 percent of the members will sign up for the social aspect,” Lynch said. “For some it really is a social group. They can go out and do things with their peers. Then the other 30 (percent) really want our services.”

Those services include a list of vendors and volunteers who have been thoroughly vetted by Village Without Walls, Lynch said.

“Background checks, the whole thing,” she said. “We want to make sure no one with a criminal record or someone who’d harm the residents have access. We want to create an environment where people know they’re checked on.”

Village Without Walls members who choose the “Member Plus” service — at a higher cost than the base “Member” level — can request help with yard work, transportation or similar needs from Village Without Walls’ volunteer staff.

“We want to encourage young people to volunteer,” said Lynch, who has already heard interest from Pacific University students, as well as from many 55+ people who plan to become members but would also like to help out.

The Cornelius City Council passed a resolution of support for Village Without Walls at its Aug. 1 meeting.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if our seniors take advantage of the service,” said City Manager Rob Drake. “I imagine it’ll depend on the cost, but there will be some who like it — those without family or with no family at home. Churches do a similar sort of thing, but not everyone belongs to a church.”

More than 400 people have already expressed interest, though Lynch isn’t sure how many will actually sign up come Oct. 1. The concept will not be a good match for everyone, she said.

“Of the 400 interested, we’re hoping to get 80 or so,” she said. “The membership process makes sure we’re the right fit for the person.”