In 2010, a group of people from Piedmont, Rockridge and other nearby parts of north Oakland launched a new "village" designed to provide services to help seniors live at home as long as possible.
The result, North Oakland Village, is not a literal village but a community of fee-paying members who offer each other support, companionship and assistance.
The assistance, says co-founder Sandra Davidson of Rockridge, could be a critically needed service, like a ride to the doctor, or it could be less immediately pressing but still important, like being read to or going on walks together.
The services by and large are provided by volunteers, who consist both of members of North Oakland Village and non-members who want to help.
"It's an attempt by us who are aging, saying we want another choice to be able to stay in our homes as long as we can," Davidson said.
One must be a member to receive services, and an annual fee of $600 per individual or $750 per couple is charged for membership. There are two classes of members, donor members and service members, depending on whether they receive services or just want to contribute.
Of course, donor members are welcome to contribute more than the membership fee, said Davidson.
An interview with Davidson and co-founder Judith Coates on the North Oakland Village website traces the group's origin to a 2007 article Coates saw in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2007 about the village concept.
Inspired to gauge local interest in starting a group here, Coates placed a notice in Piedmont Avenue area newsletter, PANIL Notes, which attracted a number of interested people. At this time, a group at Davidson's church also was becoming interested in the idea and learned of Coates' initiative from a notice in the Montclarion. They pooled their efforts to form North Oakland Village.
The group is part of a growing movement of similar local villages, which emerged with the Beacon Hill Village in Boston in 2001, according to a survey of the national network of villages published in December.
That survey – by social work researchers at Rutgers, UC Berkeley, University of Maryland and University of Michigan – listed 85 additional villages had formed since then with more than 120 more in development.
There are several others in the Bay Area, including Ashby Village, serving the greater Berkeley area.
Though the villages share basic principles, each one is autonomous with significant local variety, Davidson said.
"Each villiage is totally distinct and separate," she said.
The membership in North Oakland Village is "coming up on 30 at this point," Davidson said. "We've been growing ourselves gradually."
Members can start out as donor members and become service members when they need services, said Davidson.
"One woman gave up her license on her 92nd birthday," she said. Davidson and her husband, in their 70s, are donor members, she said.
The group welcomes new members, she said. "We are interested in reaching people who are thinking of retirement."
They also welcome gift memberships from adult children for their aging parents, she said.
Those interested in learning more can access the North Oakland Village website and drop by the group's office in the Rockridge Shopping Center at Broadway and Pleasant Valley Avenue. (It's located between Rockridge Cleaners and Great Clips.)