Marking its fifteenth anniversary, the community organization “At Home in Greenwich” has been helping older adults to thrive at home since its launch on January 26, 2008.
Lucy Guillet, a long-time Greenwich resident, enjoys attending At Home programs such as the monthly poetry readings and the book group that is bringing kindred book lovers together to discuss Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.” As an At Home member, Guillet also shares her interest in art exhibits with other members by organizing trips to nearby galleries and places of interest. Guillet is currently arranging a trip to the Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Gardens. Serving on At Home’s Program Committee, Guillet is proposing a trip to the Guggenheim Museum in New York City this year.
Another At Home member who has been active since its launch, Barbara Martin (a retired Greenwich Librarian), participates in the Reading Aloud Group which is currently exploring Virginia Woolf’s “To The Lighthouse.” Led by Sally Fagan Greenberg and Joel Seligmann, who together have over 50 years of experience teaching English and Drama, the At Home members discuss enduring literature and listen to classics being read aloud. Martin explained “I have made wonderful friendships through At Home over the years and enjoyed the many trips I’ve taken with other members.” The weekly Lunch Bunch get together at the Café at Greenwich Hospital or Greenwich Library is another social event Martin looks forward to in Town. Men also meet every other week in the Men’s Discussion Group to discuss current topics of interest.
Through various programs — museum trips, book club, discussion groups, luncheon gatherings — and participation in activities such as the annual Walk/Run for Abilis event held at Tod’s Point, members continue to actively engage in their community At Home in Greenwich was an ambitious idea back in 2006 when Marylin Chou read with interest an article in The New York Times about Beacon Hill Village, a Boston-based organization established to support and empower older adults to live independently in their homes. Chou and Mimi Kayden (a Wellesley classmate) traveled to Boston to learn more about the establishment of this supportive program. Chou, together with a number of prominent Greenwich residents including Town officials, took action and launched the not-for-profit organization called “At Home in Greenwich,” using the Beacon Hill Village model.
During a presentation made by Chou to the Greenwich Retired Men’s Association, Gerry Mayfield heard about the vision for this new organization. Mayfield asked Chou if she had a business plan for At Home in Greenwich. Chou acknowledged that there was no plan setting out the proposed strategy for starting this business. As a venture capitalist, Mayfield saw the need to have a plan and a pitch for funds, and offered to draft a business plan. Not only did Mayfield complete the business plan, but he also helped this nascent organization move from a desk and a telephone at The Family Centers, to receive start-up funds from Second Congregational Church and rent office space from the Church. Mayfield continues to serve on the Advisory Council for At Home, together with other professionals bringing their considerable expertise to help the entity build on its strengths as a community organization.
On January 26, 2008, during the luncheon to launch this new community group, Stephen Jones, then Medical Director of the Center for Healthy Aging at Greenwich Hospital, said in opening remarks, “[t]he launching of this initiative is a wave of the future, a concept so simple, yet profound, that promises to enhance the quality of life and health of our growing senior population.”
Many Town residents, including Betty Hauptman (a Greenwich volunteer extraordinaire who understood the challenges facing older adults in the community), saw the wisdom in this newly-established organization. Founders gave substantial funds and sponsors continue to give generously to the not-for-profit.
During the luncheon to launch, the newly-hired Executive Director, Lise Jameson, LCSW, outlined the goals of At Home: to create peace of mind for older adults who want to continue to live in their own homes, to offer the confidence that basic needs will be met through a single phone call, and to foster an environment in which members will be part of a vibrant community with many opportunities for socializing.
Jameson, a licensed clinical social worker, continues to oversee a small team aided by many volunteers and provides invaluable services to members by assisting them in solving problems that arise while living at home. Jameson is often called on to consult on home health care referrals and to carry out site visits to determine whether or not a home could be made safer for a resident or to discuss needs raised by an At Home member or a concerned family member about his or her relative who lives independently. In addition, the At Home Staff vets and refers vendors, such as electricians and plumbers, to ensure that they will treat members with respect and fairness. When needed, members are provided with transportation to and from a doctor’s appointment and, on occasion, are accompanied by an At Home representative to hear the discussion with the medical provider. These are just a few of the benefits provided to At Home members who live independently in their homes.
It is interesting to note that as of 2010, over 3,000 people over the age of 85 lived by themselves in Greenwich as documented in the United Way Needs Assessment Report. Bob Arnold, President of Family Centers, praised At Home during its launch as “the cornerstone of a new generation of programs,” one that promises to protect and extend the independence and dignity of residents.
Board members of At Home, including President Emerita Marylin Chou, are actively planning events throughout the year to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary. These events include the Annual Meeting on April 18, a luncheon honoring the Founders, a festive gathering under a tent on June 2, a summer cruise to nowhere, and an annual benefit on September 29 at the Delamar Hotel.
Anyone interested in learning more about At Home is encouraged to call the office at (203) 422-2342 or view the website at www.athomeingreenwich.org. The At Home office is located on the second floor of the recently-named building, Steeple Common, that is adjacent to the Second Congregational Church at 139 East Putnam Avenue.