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Shepherdstown seniors part of growing social movement

By Staff | Aug 14, 2015

Due to advances in medicine, science and technology, people are living significantly longer lives. In fact, according to the Administration on Aging, seniors are the fastest-growing population group in the world.

And most of them want to age gracefully in their own homes.

Enter the, ‘It takes a village’ concept for senior living. That’s where SAIL (Shepherdstown Area Independent Living) comes into the picture.

At this months Coffee and Conversation event, SAIL President, Jack Young, discussed this growing national trend and how SAIL is a part of it.

Based on the ‘village’ model pioneered by Boston’s Beacon Hill area, SAIL’s goal is to create a community where members establish relationships, socialize, and help each other in times of need.

At this time there are over 200 such villages in the U.S., which have come together under the Village to Village network.

These villages are custom tailored to the needs of its community. Benefits to the members of SAIL are numerous. Services such as transportation to appointments, personal assistance with things like grocery shopping and chores and referrals for vetted contractors make living at home a viable option for seniors.

SAIL is non-profit and member driven, currently with over 80 members. In addition, there are 40 volunteers, 35 of whom are members.

Linda O’Brien, Volunteer Coordinator, says, “We ask new members what their interests are so that we can see who fills the bill when we need something done. It’s part of every new member process.”

O’Brien cites total volunteer hours from 2014 as 2,614, which is almost a full year of volunteer days meeting the needs of members.

Beyond the services provided, SAIL’s calendar of events promotes social and learning activities, as well as health and wellness information for its members.

“Our social activities are designed to get people out of an isolation situation and make new friends,” Young said.

Monthly brown bag luncheons, trivia nights and Mah-jong groups, as well as trips to concerts, museums, and the like, engage the mind and body to promote longevity.

Members have health and wellness opportunities, nutritional and pharmaceutical counseling, and can participate in fitness programs and walking groups.

As many existing services for seniors and the disabled are overburdened, SAIL is committed to exploring alternatives.

We want to offer people more choices, stated Young. “This doesn’t mean that someone will never go into assisted living or a nursing home, but we try to keep people in their homes as long as possible.”

SAIL serves and sustains the Shepherdstown community with ‘loose borders’, supplementing and complementing the support services of Good Shepherd Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers, Hospice of the Panhandle, Panhandle Home Health, Trinity Episcopal Church, Shepherdstown Community Club and others.

Maria Lorensen, Development Director of Hospice of the Panhandle was one of the guests at the Coffee and Conversation event to provide information and dispel myths about the Hospice program.

“Hospice is aligned with SAIL in concept,” said Lorensen, “in that we come into a person’s home providing care so that they can stay where they are comfortable and things are familiar.”

Lorensen went on to say that people shrink away from the word, ‘Hospice’ because it has a negative or sad connotation. In reality, Hospice is there to bring comfort, dignity, and independence to those with a serious illness.

“Hospice is not meant to just be brought in for the last two or three days of life,” Lorensen said, “but should be brought in sooner to improve the quality of life for patients and their families.”

Hospice patients can and do improve. Patients are discharged from Hospice any time their condition stabilizes, improves, or the goals change from comfort care to aggressive, curative treatment.

Like Hospice, SAIL encourages people to think about how they want to live out the rest of their lives and to have that conversation with loved ones, avoiding possible confusion later in life.

“People don’t think they’re ‘old enough’ to discuss independent living options,” said Young. “They say they’ll think about it later, but SAIL is a now and later program.” Young explained that members are from diverse backgrounds and have much to offer each other. There are many opportunities to meet people and enjoy social aspects of life now, and SAIL volunteers will be available for assistance as needs arise later.

“We feel good about what SAIL provides in community support for our members,” said Young

For more information about becoming a member of SAIL or for volunteering opportunities, visit them on the web www.shepherdstownSAIL.org. Hospice of the Panhandle is found online at www.hospiceotp.org