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Group to Help Local Seniors Remain in Their Homes

At Home on the Sound, a new, grassroots, not-for-profit organization, plans to be in operation in January next year, helping many of this area’s seniors live out their lives in their own homes. The president of the group, Lynn Reichgott, announced the timetable and explained how her group aims to help seniors at the Larchmont/Mamaroneck Local Summit meeting May 19th.

Lynne Reichgott from Larchmont is heading up Home on the Sound.

Lynne Reichgott from Larchmont is heading up Home on the Sound. Photos by John Gitlitz.

With a steering committee of more than 30 local residents, At Home on the Sound is part of a growing national movement to “offer seniors a practical alternative to moving to a nursing home, assisted living or other retirement institution,” Ms. Reichgott said.

Two similar groups are already in operation: Gramatan Village in Bronxville and Staying Put in New Canaan. The first aging-in-place organization, Beacon Hill Village, Boston, has been running successfully for seven years.

Ms. Reichgott shared the presentation with Simon Marlow, Friedhilde Milburn, and Leslie Molinoff.

A Range of Services Will be Offerered

By early 2010, At Home on the Sound expects to:

  • Establish a resource center with a professional director and trained volunteers to answer questions, provide targeted information and make referrals
  • Offer social, cultural, intergenerational and educational events to bring seniors with similar interests together and help them stay active and independent
  • Provide transportation for appointments, errands and activities
  • Keep an up-to-date recommendation list of qualified, screened and insured home maintenance professionals who offer membership discounts
  • Establish alliances with a variety of health and wellness organizations
  • Offer plans for individualized assistance programs
  • Coordinate with other relevant community and county services
  • Foster “neighbor helping neighbor” volunteer programs.

It was emphasized that At Home on the Sound would not duplicate existing senior services, but would complement them. It would, however, initiate services that are not provided or are not sufficient.

Big Need for Aging-in-Place Help

Ms. Reichgott said the group has been working on its program for two years, running six focus groups, studying local demographics and sharing information with other aging-in-place groups, not-for-profits and government agencies.

She said that even based on year 2000 census statistics, the local market for elderly support was extensive. These figures showed that about 5,500 individuals over 65 years of age live in the Village of Mamaroneck, Village of Larchmont and unincorporated area of Town of Mamaroneck. About 80 percent of local seniors are in their own houses or condominiums. About 50 percent had incomes of between $35,000 and $75,000. Approximately 80 percent had incomes under $100,000.

Ms. Milburn, the development officer for the group, said the new program will be supported by membership fees along with grants from family foundations, corporations and individuals. Initially “at least 10 percent of members would be offered ‘scholarships,” she said.  If fund raising is successful that percentage could be increased.

Friedhilde Milburn is the development officer for Home on the Sound.

Friedhilde Milburn is the development officer for Home on the Sound.

Simon Marlow emphasized the importance of continuity as people age.

Simon Marlow emphasized the importance of continuity as people age.

Mr. Marlow, who has lived in many parts of the world, said that any “move is a trauma” and more so for seniors. “They miss friends and neighbors,” he said, and the comfort that comes with familiarity with a place they’ve known for years and loved. “They tend to feel isolated and without social connectedness,” he said.

It was pointed out that many of the services provided by retirement and assisted living institutions, even for the fragile elderly, can be provided at home, often with less personal angst and lower cost.

Overlap and Costs?

An audience member asked how At Home on the Sound would relate to the existing Mamaroneck Senior Center.

Mamaroneck Town Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe, also in the audience, explained that the tri-municipalities have now combined formerly separate senior programs and are running them from the  Senior Center at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building on the Boston Post Road. She listed a number of the services provided there, including recreation and nutrition.

She said she had watched the At Home group make their plans over the past two years and is confident there will be a good mesh with the existing Senior Center. “I am thrilled you are doing this,” she said to the featured speakers.

Another audience member pointed out that this is a very expensive area to live, which could present a problem for seniors wanting to remain at home.

Panelists said this was indeed a problem. One of the functions of the new organization is to advocate for seniors at various levels of government and with the philanthropic and business communities.

“We will try to make it better for seniors and we will try to go beyond the 10 percent in scholarships,” Ms. Reichgott said.

The Local Summit, which hosted the program, is an informal community council which seeks to make Larchmont and Mamaroneck a better place to live for everyone. It holds a regular public meeting at 7:45 a.m., the third Tuesday of the month, at the Nautilus Diner.

Harold Wolfson is on the board of the Local Summit.

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