The Aging Revolution: a society with 100% more seniors (podcast)

The Aging Revolution: a society with 100% more seniors (podcast)


– Thank you all for coming
out on a rainy night for our program this evening here at the Free Speech Movement Cafe. My name is Jean Ferguson. I’m part of the Free Speech Movement Cafe Educational Program Series and we’ve been offered programs
here in the cafe since 2001 to honor the founders of the movement and the intention of free speech. So, the goals of our program overall, which includes this one this evening, are to generate discussion about
historical and contemporary social activism or other important social, political, and cultural issues and to encourage student
participation and leadership in educational programming
for social activism. So, thank you all for coming this evening. Our program this evening
is It Takes a Village to Build a Society with 100% More Seniors. As baby boomers reach retirement age, how is society preparing for the growth in the numbers of seniors in America. So, that’s what we’re gonna
talk about this evening. Manuel here, Manuel and
I don’t know how to say your last name. – Acevedo. – Acevedo. Perfect, okay. Is our organizer this
evening and he is the founder of helpfulvillage.com,
one of the 21 start-ups of the University of
California Start-up Accelerator in 2016. Manuel has a masters
degree in computer science from EPFL in Switzerland,
where founded his first award winning start-up. He moved to Berkeley four years ago and launched helpfulvillage.com
to provide seniors and senior associations called villages, with senior specific, easy
to use, ultra efficient, silicon valley technology. Today, a fast growing number of villages is using helpful village in
the bay area and nationwide. So, I’ll turn it over. (steps away from mic) – Yeah, thank you. So, thank you for all for coming. I don’t need to introduce myself anymore, but I would like to introduce Brianna, who’s a student from UC Berkeley. She will introduce herself, but I would like to say
that I was very happy to work with one of the
UC Berkeley students to have a fresh look at the problem and I’ll give the word to her. – Well, I guess I’ll start with, it’s definitely my pleasure to be here. I’m very happy that this
opportunity was presented to me. I’m Brianna, I’m a junior
here at UC Berkeley. I’m studies economics and French and I’m also a part of a club on campus called Bears for Elder Welfare and our goal is to fight ageism, while volunteering at
local senior centers. So, next, I will introduce Lisa Brinkmann. – So, my name is Lisa Brinkmann and I am the executive
director of Marin Villages in Marin county. I’ve been there for almost five years now. I’ve come with 30 years
of corporate background. Just five or six years ago,
got a masters in Gerontology from the University of
Southern California. So, I’m the practical, feet on the ground representative here. – And next, we have Andrew Sharlach. – So, I’m professor in social welfare. I’ve been on campus since 1990 and before that, was here in the late ’60’s, early ’70’s and direct something called
The Center for the Advanced Study of Aging Services
and also direct a program in aging services as part
of a masters in social work program here. – Great, thank you very much. I guess I will go through
the general outline of the discussion we have planned. There will be three parts. First we’ll look at
the overall big picture of our senior population,
which is expected to double in the next 15 to 20 years and then we will move on
to the Village Movement and the different aspects that go along with what it is and how it can support our seniors and then we will go on to the technology that we have right now in terms of the Village
Movement and how that’s aiding that system. So, I will begin with
questions directed towards the professor and I think
it’s important to start with what are the important
facts and statistics that we know about the senior population in the United States right now. – Yeah, thanks, thanks so much. Brianna, so I’m kind of, part of my job is to provide a bit of an overview and the fact that you’re here
suggests that you have a sense of the importance of these issues. A colleague of mine,
actually, at USC has said that we live in a Peter Pan society. Peter Pan, remember Peter Pan, the boy who would never grow up? We live in a society
that is sort of designed as if we’re not aging and many of us live our
lives as if we’re not aging and we have this whole
anti-aging industry. There’s more physicians who are members of an anti-aging medical society than there are who are members of the American Geriatric Society. So, to me, there’s
something a little screwy. This is happening at a
time when, just looking at the population changes, both in the U.S. and around the world, we as a country and we as
a world are rapidly aging. Aging in a couple of different ways. The main way that we’re aging
over the last 100, 150 years, has been through a dramatic
reduction in infant mortality and a dramatic reduction
in early, relatively early, adulthood deaths due to acute
illness, due to infections, particularly during the
childbearing years for women. So, thank God we’re living
long enough to be old. In fact, some have said, it’s
one of the major successes of modern society, is that
we are living long enough to have to deal with some
of these chronic diseases and to deal with some of
the challenges as well as opportunities of aging. The problem is that we
still think of aging as a negative rather than
seeing it as an opportunity and a time of our life
to try and integrate into the entire course of our lives. So, by and large, we
don’t do a very good job in this society of planning
our lives to be old. If we move somewhere, buy a house or move into a neighborhood, it may be great for us
when we have young kids, but then as we get older, we’re
very automobile dependent, we, little by little,
eliminate local neighborhood markets. In fact, some would argue,
eliminate neighborhoods in many cases. So, now, we have to get
in a car to go somewhere. We become more socially
isolated from one another. In essence, we design a world that may work really
well when we’re younger, but doesn’t work so well for many of us as we get older, which would be maybe fine if
getting old was just something that a small group of people
happened to do by accident, but you know, certainly, when you look at the students here at Berkeley, I mean, on average, they can expect to live
well into their 80’s and probably, yeah, high
80’s, between 85 and 90 and yet, how many of
them are really, I mean, I was young once too, right, so I know, but you know, how many of
them are making decisions with the idea that those decisions are going to really
have a long term impact. I think George Burns or somebody, probably a lot of people
were quoted as saying, “if I had known that I
was gonna live this long, “I would’ve taken better care of myself.” you know? And so, part of our, you
know, part of the motivation for this panel and our discussion is really, how do we, in
a way, retrofit our lives and our communities, so that
they really are better places to live and better places to age in because we just, by
and large, don’t design our environment to
really be able to do that and frankly, some of us
don’t do as good a job in designing our own lives to do that. We have, in this country,
one of lowest savings rates of anywhere in the world,
of a developed country, et cetera. The other thing that I wanna say, just to kind of start us off, is that it’s a tremendous
time of opportunity. There’s a lot of recognition that our existing societal structures, as beneficial as they are and
beneficial as they’ve been, can only take us so far. So, when we created, in this
country, social security, back in the mid 1930’s,
that was a revolution, it really was a revolution. You couldn’t do it now and still, the majority of older adults, social security, that 1200 dollars a month or whatever that they
get, is what they live on. It’s the majority of their income and without it they’d be impoverished. So, we have some Medicare, which is that and the VA system, and apologies to the VA system, but are for better and for worse, the most efficient, most effective health care systems that
we have in this country. Medicare is so much more effective and so much more efficient
than private insurance and that’s one of the reasons for, this is not a plug, it’s
one of the reasons why the Affordable Care Act
tried to sort of merge private health care coverage
and some of the advantages of group coverage and
some of the advantages of sort of a managed care approach and so, we’re trying to figure that out as a country and in
fact, the world is trying to figure it out. Almost every country that
I know of that, yeah, almost every country that I know of that is dealing with these
issues is trying to figure out what is the right balance
between the role of government, the role of family, the
role of individuals, and the role of private industry. How do we find that right balance? In this country, traditionally,
the bias has been towards individuals and families. In some other countries the bias has been more towards families
and now those families are not as available or
they have a lot fewer kids and a lot more elders and in some countries,
the bias has been more towards government and now
those governments are finding they can’t afford to continue that and so they’re looking to
more private sector solutions and so, throughout the world, there’s this effort to figure out, how do we get the right leverage. How do we get the right balance. What is the role of government. And how do we provide
opportunities and incentives to take advantage of the resources that come with age? Not financial resources, necessarily, but social resources, wisdom, experience, and the like. How do we see older adults,
not as service recipients, but as the co-creators
of society, of community, of support structures and in a very real way, what we’re gonna talk about tonight is exactly that, is new opportunities, new roles, new ways of figuring out what the right balance is,
what the right role is, recognizing that we have
images of older adults as sometimes, as either
being sort inadequate, you know, sort of the old
person who we feel sorry for or whatever, or being vital
and as if they’re not aging and the reality, of course, is that age has some of each, you know, that 80 percent
or more of older adults, 80 to 85 percent, have some
kind of chronic condition that they’re dealing with. Arthritis, heart disease,
et cetera, IBS, et cetera, but that we learn to live with those and deal with those and it doesn’t stop us from being valuable to our
families, to our communities, to our society. And so, how do we really
reclaim the entire life course so that people can continue
to be part of the community and be engaged it community
throughout their lives and to use technology as a tool
to help make that possible. So, that’s really sort what we’re about and kind of think creatively
about some possibilities. So, that’s really why I got interested in this village model that
we’re gonna hear about and other models that
really see us, including me, as we age, as not just
part of the problem, but part of the solution. So, let me stop there with
my sort of prefatory remarks and turn things back to Brianna. – Any other comments on the big picture from either of your point of views? – I would be happy to build on
what the professor was saying about, are we an aging friendly today and my question is, well,
we need to define the role of government, but I wonder if
you think about the programs a senior can age and I’m
thinking about my mom, it is, the first thing, I
think about is in the future can we sustain the level
of services we have today. Brianna was saying that we’ll have double the number of seniors. I think among my moms
most important things are her pension and her Medicare, so basically, if we have
have twice as much people, in the future will we
be able to fund that. Are we going to an
improvement or the country, what do you think? – So, you think we got problems, look at Korea, North Korea, for example, where the aging of the, by
the middle of the century, by 2050, I think the
median age in South Korea is going to be almost 60,
so our situation is nothing compared with a number of other and also in most of Europe, actually, because of the dramatic
reduction in Spain, dramatic reduction in
birth rates, et cetera. How do we sustain that? I think the answer is
that we maybe, two things, one is that we begin to see older adults as part of the answer rather
than part of the problem, if you will. So, I don’t think it’s sustainable to simply say, every older adult gets a basic economic support simply
because they turn 65, whether they have 10 million dollars or whether they have 10,000
dollars or 10 dollars. I don’t think that’s sustainable and already, social security and Medicare are providing a smaller percentage of peoples healthcare
outlays and economic outlays, so already people are being called upon to contribute more,
themselves, to the process and that will continue. So, I think what the short answer is, yes, if we don’t change anything,
we’re going to run out of money for these programs. We need to change the structure
in terms of contributions. We need to change the
structure in terms of payouts, but also, we need to
look at other sources of, other ways of meeting peoples needs. Healthcare is such a good example. I don’t want to go on too long with this, but we are in the process now because of some government incentives, of shifting from a
primarily inpatient model to a primarily outpatient model, where people stay in facilities, whether it’s a hospital or a nursing home for a shorter period of
time, get more of their care out of the hospital and use technology to help do that. This can save a lot money. So, using technology, using our smarts, will really help, but it means
doing things a different way. – I think I’m gonna be
the more practical person as looking at this, so
the government, obviously, only has so much money that
they can provide to our seniors, but how our seniors are
able to spend their money and what they need to spend their money on is also important because
if a senior is able to keep more money in their pocket and they don’t need to rely
on government services, that’s gonna be less money that the public is going to have to expend
to help those seniors live happy, comfortable lives. That’s one thing that The Village offers because we are grass roots
and we’re volunteer driven, so we like to look at
ourselves as a safety net to help our seniors stay from
having to rely on government for a lot of their services by having volunteers,
neighbors that live close by somewhere in the neighborhood,
run by, pick you up, do errands, do the simple little tasks. If you had to get your light bulbs changed and you lived by yourself
up on the hills in Berkeley, you’d probably have to find a handyman that’s gonna charge you 65 dollars an hour to go up there and change a light bulb. Well, if we have a neighbor next door that can climb that ladder
and change the light bulb in five minutes, that’s 65 more dollars that that senior has in her or his pocket to spend on medications, groceries and other things that they would otherwise have to, perhaps, rely
on the government for. So, by creating a community of
neighbors helping neighbors, we’re hoping to economically
allow the seniors also to just have a little more capability with how they’re able
to spend their own money as opposed to how they
have to spend their money to stay and sustain their lifestyle. – Great, thank you. I guess one more question
for the macroeconomic point of view would be, what do you think is going
to be the most challenging or most important part of adjusting to the new composition of the population? – So, in terms of, I think
the biggest challenge, really, is an intellectual one, a
psychological one, if you will, and that is recognizing
that aging is not abnormal and really incorporating
the whole life course into our planning process and
into our community processes so that when we build a new building, we ask, is this going to
be functional for people of all abilities, but also of all ages. When we build a new road,
is this going to work for people of all abilities and all ages. When we design a new car and
it’s interesting, you know, one of the things about the
semi-autonomous vehicles now, the Teslas and even to
some degree, the Mercedes and Volvos and even, you
know, less expensive cars that have an indicator, so
that is you go to change lanes it shows you, a little
light blinks or something, there’s a car next to you or whatever or have cameras so when you back up, is that these are almost
perfectly designed to compensate for normal
changes related to age. So, one of the things that
happens as we get older, peripheral vision gets worse. One of the things that
happens as we get older, neck flexibility gets worse. One of the things that
happens as we get older, our reflexes are a little slower, but here are technologies
that just so easily compensate for that, so I think the biggest change is going to be the extent to which we see ourselves intentionally
designing products, environments, our lives, recognizing that
aging is part and parcel of normal human experience. So, it’s kind of a general response, but I really think that’s
the revolution, if you will, in terms of our thinking and our lives. – Yeah, may I ask you, well,
that’s happening naturally, also, if the aged population is 20 percent of the population, as it is in Berkeley,
naturally, maybe designers and entrepreneurs like me,
see that there is a market and I think that will
happen just naturally, that technology will go and help there. Maybe the challenge
that I will see is that if we need to pay twice as
much for social security and for Medicare because,
let me bring some stats, basically, a senior
expenditure on health care is three times as much
as for an active person, so what I see is that
basically, the federal budget, which spends already 30
percent on social security, 30 percent on health expenses, as the population ages, well
just the budget will increase and then basically, the
decision makers are gonna say, well, how do we fund
this and I have a clue because you were
mentioning in Spain before when there a crisis in 2008,
you need to save some money, you save the bank, so you need
to, so to make some money, well, the decision was easy
and if you have 60 percent being spent on the elderly,
just the pension cuts or extending the age of
retirement are the easy targets, so the challenge I see is that I hope that seniors
will organize themselves in a free speech movement
or in an aging movement to defend their rights because if they don’t, they’re
gonna be cut on their rights and their pensions. – So, let me just respond to that quickly and my response is, that it’s, social security and I
don’t have my wallet, but our little Medicare
cards and all that, is a blessing and a curse because what, I mean, the way
that your question was framed, Manuel, presumes that people who are older are a group and that the
question is how can we afford this group, but if I said to you, well, there’s more, I don’t know,
what, babies being born who are brown-eyed or
something, I don’t know, pick something that’s
relatively non-controversial, and that there’s some evidence
that brown-eyed babies, you know, use more, you
know, health resources or whatever, you know, I
don’t know that we’d be having a conversation about
whether we should provide fewer services to brown-eyed babies and there’s some evidence
that if you look at a particular health condition and take that health condition and look at in a 30 year old and look at it in an 80 year old, more money will be
spent on the 30 year old than on the 80 year old. So, it’s not a question
of age as much as it is a question of the health
conditions that people have, in this case, that people have that are related to age, that are definitely related to age, so I guess I’m questioning that assumption that age is really the
marker, the determinant, I think yeah, so, yes, you know, yes, we’re gonna have more people, we’ll have more people living longer. It’s really a question
of whether we see that as a problem or whether we
see that as possibility. As a colleague of mine says, look, there’s a very simple way. A very simple way to deal with the problem that you’ve expressed. The simple way is, we provide all kinds of government incentives
for people at the age of, pick your age, 60, 50, 70, whatever it is, to start smoking three packs a day. People will die sooner. They’ll die quicker and you know, and we
eliminate this problem. So, I guess, you know, maybe it’s ’cause I spend my time in the world of aging and because of my own age, but I’d like us to sort
of stop, if you will, you know, seeing older people as a problem and instead say, we’re all gonna, no, most of us, those of us
who are fortunate enough, are going to live to be quite old, so, how do we plan as a society for that, recognizing that we have to
share the pain, if you will. – I just have to make one little point. It’s because of technology
and advancements and developments with
medicine and drugs and that, it’s the younger people
that are able to get older, that will be absorbing
some of those costs. So, I think it’s across the lifespan that those costs come up and I do believe that you’re seeing a lot more
emphasis on healthy aging. Again, as the professor
pointed our earlier, you know, what you do
in your 20’s and 30’s is going to affect, you know, your health when you’re in your 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. So, I would put the burden
on the young folks, actually, at this point. – Yeah, so, I would like to clarify one, I don’t see the seniors being the problem, I really would like my mom (laughing) that we as a society
spend three times as much to pay for her healthcare. So, I don’t want to cut there, what I say, is simply, that we better start thinking now about how do we find additional resources to pay for my mom’s
healthcare and basically, build a more efficient society. So, but that’s gonna happen, what I mean is that if you do nothing, given the fact that chronic
conditions require more money, there will be, I mean, we need
to find additional resources or be a more efficient society. – And I think there’s
research out now that says exercise and diet are a wonderful panacea or instead of medication,
so it doesn’t necessarily have to be something that’s expensive for many chronic diseases, obviously, there’s medication that’s required, but getting people outside, socializing and eating well is going to
improve their health as well. – Yeah, I totally agree with that one. When I was thinking about
the efficiency of society, I was thinking specifically for that. Let me give an example, the stats on social isolation
are particularly tough. 43 percent on the study
we found, of the seniors, felt lonely and you have
69 percent more risk of getting your mental health
or your physical health, being worsened just because you are alone. So, basically, I’m not
saying we are doomed, what I’m saying is that we need to find a more efficient society
and efficient model like, I think the Villages, where basically, we’re bringing seniors together, having more face to face meetings, having more social
engagement and relationships and if we do, basically, we’ll
have lower healthcare costs because there is a correlation there. This is, I mean, I’m an optimist also. (laughing) – Great and we’ll take a quick break for any questions that the
audience may have this time. – I was wondering, (muffled) over near Oakland Piedmont, they’re building a whole
new Safeway complex, I don’t know if anybody is aware of that, and the housing units around
it are all elderly housing and I assume that was a state
required or subsidized thing, and I thought, what a great
idea, these people can walk to the Safeway then,
and this there’s this whole independent living aspect
and I was just wondering how much of that is out there? Is that something specific to our area or? – Yeah, there’s more attention now to this kind of new
urbanism, not so new anymore, and integrated land use. Traditional zoning laws
in the United States in most communities, have
the done the exact opposite. They’ve sort of tried to
protect residential areas, like suburban areas
and keep suburban areas or residential areas separate
from commercial areas. We’re recognizing now
that that’s a mistake and trying to bring those back together in a more integrated kind of way, but there’s a lot of resistance also and it has to be
available land, et cetera, but we see it more around transit hubs, where housing developed
around BART stations and the like, but most
of that is developed with the idea of younger commuters and that’s important and that’s critical, especially given the cost of
housing here in the bay area, but we also need to be thinking about older adults, where the goal needs to be getting rid of cars, not
getting rid of, rid of, but you know, to reducing
dependence on automobiles, helping people to have
places they can walk to. It turns out, back on
what Manuel was saying, that walking is clearly
much better for you and people are much more likely to walk if they have a destination
to walk to, you know, it’s one thing to get out,
oh, I’ll get some exercise, but walking to the store,
walking to the church, walking to the hairdresser,
walking to a friend’s house, whatever it might be, that
really dramatically increases health and well being. So, we need to think about how we designed our communities to make that possible. – I think my point was, that I don’t think people were building that elderly housing (muffled) – So, right, there’s an
area plan where every city has to, in the greater bay area, has to dedicate a percentage
of new construction to low income housing, so it’s a question of how each
city or how each community meets that and one of the
ways to meet it, frankly, is when you have a developer
who wants to develop something new, you say to
them, either by statute or by negotiation, okay,
you can build, you know, whatever it is there
and X number of dollars needs to go towards offsetting the cost of your cost to the community
of what you’re doing by providing good to the community through low income
housing or senior housing, so I don’t know what
was done in that case, but that’s often times the way it works. – I’d like to comment also
that there is a ground swell similar to The Village of communities that are looking for age friendly status by the World Health Organization. I know in Marin we have
Sausalito, Corte Madera, Fairfax, Novato, possibly San Rafael,
who have age friendly status or are about to get it. I believe Berkeley has
applied for age friendly. That’s more a policy driven,
to look at the community and it’s not necessarily just for seniors, but it’s for all ages. Young people with children in strollers need good sidewalks just like
older people with walkers or canes, so it’s that community outlook, as opposed to the niche, right, that if you look, the
young and the old have very similar needs in many respects for access to easy food, to being able to get out and walk easily and that’s
where age friendly communities come into play and to the extent that different municipalities
are encouraged to look at their permitting, their planning, and their new structures
in an age friendly way. I think that’s gonna
benefit the whole community, seniors included. – Great and now we’ll go
into more specifically, what The Village Movement is. Lisa, if you could give a brief overview as well as the types of members that join and the types of volunteers that you have. – So, The Village Movement
is a grass root movement and it’s been in place
now for about 15 years. It started in Beacon Hill, back in Boston, and basically, it was neighborhood that the seniors in the
neighborhood said hey, we don’t wanna move to Florida. We’re getting older. I think AARP says 90 of older,
90 percent of Americans, would like to stay in their
own homes as they get older. So, these folks said, you know what, look, we can’t call our
kids because they work. Many of our friends aren’t able to help us the way they used to be able to because they’re our age,
maybe they don’t drive anymore themselves, some spouses or
partners might have passed away, but between all of us,
using our skills, wisdoms and experience, I think
we can make this work, so they started what’s called a Village. A very simple concept,
it’s eliciting the help of volunteers from the neighborhood for things that you would
normally ask a friend, family member, or
neighbor to help you with. So, the concept is so simple and yet it’s so foreign because you’re saying, you
mean, somebody is going to help me for free? And people, I mean, it takes a long time for them to get used to that. The word village is not very convenient because most people think
it’s a physical place and we’re actually a virtual village because everybody lives in their own homes and homes can be houses,
they can be apartments, we have members that live
in residential facilities, so assisted living facilities
or continuing care. The main thing is that The Village is, that it’s for and by the
members and the volunteers. So, right now, there are
approximately 200 villages in operation throughout the United States. In the bay area, I believe
there’s like 35, 30, 35, villages in bay area. In California, we must have about 50 or 60 and what we try to do, is
we try to recruit volunteers that live in the community to help seniors that live close by. Pretty simple. We do a lot things for the seniors, some of them are very task oriented or they appear to be tasks, so a senior might call us,
they join first of all, so we ask for a membership fee and The Villages have
different membership fees, depending on how they’re structured. Some Villages have staff,
where they actually pay people to be in the office and do a
lot of the administrative work, some Villages are all volunteer, some are time banked, some
in the rural communities are part of the area on
aging or some of the other social organizations, but what they do, is they ask
the members to pay something to help out. That membership, so, as
a member, in our Village, we have approximately
400 members right now and another 250, 300 volunteers. A lot of our members are volunteers. A lot of of volunteers are just volunteers and a lot of our members are just members. What happens is, the member
will call and they’ll say, you know what I need,
I just got this iPhone and I need somebody to
show me how to use this App or my cabinet keeps shaking
and I really don’t know how to just screw it in there properly. I can’t get on chair to do that. I need a ride to the doctors. This comes to the transportation realm. Seniors who lose their licenses are often completely isolated, especially in our suburban areas and especially in the hills
that we all live in around here. Providing a ride to an appointment is critical because
sometimes it’s difference between that person going
to the doctors or not. If you have to pay 100 dollars to get to the doctor and back, you probably aren’t gonna go to the doctor unless you’re really, really sick. If you need to pay 40 dollars to go to the grocery store and back, you’re probably gonna wait until you’re on your last
little bit of corn flakes before you’re gonna get to the doctors, but if you know that you can
and you can have a neighbor or a friend come by and
volunteer and drop by your house, pick you up, take you to the doctor, and bring you back on time, you know they’re gonna be
there to take you home, it’s a unbelievable peace of mind. What we’re finding with The Village is, that when we have a volunteer network, we also have resources in the community that are referred to us by volunteers, so if someone needs an
electrician, a plumber, they don’t know where to
turn, they can call us, we can say, these are people
that our members have used, these are people that our
members think are good. We also work closely with
all the organizations in the county, so the Department of
Aging, the senior centers, and the different like, in Marin, the transportation organization
is called Whistlestop. So, we know what they do and we know when a
senior asks for something and if we can’t help them,
where they might be able to get help. So, it’s a really wonderful
resource for the older adults. So, who are our members
and who are our volunteers? We have members as young,
at one point, as 50, and we have members as old as 100. People say, what is a senior and I say it’s kind of simple, because
most seniors self select. Nobody wants to be a senior. So, if you wanna call yourself a senior, usually you are. So, we haven’t had many people younger asking us for our services. Our volunteers, our
youngest volunteers are kids in high school that go with their folks and they help some of our members with mostly technology and once in
a while it might be yard work or something and our
oldest volunteer is 97. So, I like to say age isn’t
a measure of capability or interest, age is just a number. We have members that are in
their 50’s that needs rides and have unbelievable health conditions that we’re able to give them
a hand with around the house and we have members that are in their 90’s that publish their own blog sites. So, it’s amazing, kind of phenomenal, what is interesting is
we don’t create Villages, the community and the
people in the community says, you know, I think
we need this for us, so they actually, people in the community have been coming and
saying, you know what, I think this is a good idea. How do we make this
work for our community? How do we make this work for our town, could be a neighborhood and what happens is, instead
of one person having to rely on one person or two
people for everything, nobody wants to have to ask
people for help all the time, I mean, it’s not a good
feeling as a human being to feel so reliant on somebody. We’re able to spread those requests out to a greater group of people, so people are more
willing to ask for help. When we first started, all of our rides were for medical appointments, nobody asked for anything other
than a ride to the doctors. Now, we have our weekly
rides to the hairdressers, we have our lunch groups,
we have our movie groups, we have a lot of activities
and a lot of socializing going on that was not happening before and when you look at a simple
task, a simple volunteer task, so when a volunteer comes
over to a members house to give ’em a hand or the
volunteer takes the member for a ride, there’s a
relationship that’s starting. There is just a social, I don’t know, you probably have the
right academic word for it, that there is something
social and human going on in that connection that you
just can’t put any money on and you can’t describe because by helping that
person one or two times, one, every time you learn something. I mean, if someone gets to be 90 year old, they’ve gone through a lot in life and they can share an enormous
amount of wisdom with you and it goes the other way around too because old people like to
be around younger people. Older people like to not have
to go to an assisted living facility. They want to be in the
community as long as they can. So, that’s nice and as a community and I was
just explaining a little bit earlier, when I go by certain streets, I now go, oh, you know, Ruth
lives there, Joan lives there, they see me, we’re friends. It is an unbelievable
enrichment of your life that just happens and that
is a big value of The Village that is hard to put,
it’s hard to monetize. It improves peoples health,
they’re getting out, they’re socializing, they know somebody else cares about them and the volunteer just feels so good because they could help. Now, the thing that’s
interesting about The Village, especially from a volunteer standpoint and this is how we operate
and different Villages may operate a little bit differently, but most of our volunteers right now are retired people because often, the requests from members
come during the week, nine to five, when their
kids, their friends, and things like that might be working. The, gosh, what was I gonna say. I’m having a senior moment. The thing that is really
great with the volunteering is we acknowledge that the volunteers, if you’re retired, you
don’t want a full time job, you don’t want to commit
yourself to four hours a week, from ten to two every Tuesday, so what we’ve been doing
is using technology to say, you know what,
these are the requests, we know you’re busy,
so you guys have a look at these requests and if there’s anything that you feel that you can do, pick the one that fits your
interests, fits your time, fits your schedule and
let’s hook it together and that’s one way that we’re using, actually, Manuel’s technology,
to help encourage more people to join as volunteers
because they don’t feel that they have to watch
their emails all day long. They don’t feel like they’re
committed to a time slot and my hope is that, by
using technology to broaden the capabilities or the
availabilities of volunteer opportunities, that the younger group, so people in their 50’s,
40’s, 30’s, and 20’s will come up and say, you know what, I have some time on a Saturday, so instead of, you guys
don’t remember, probably, the pink pages of The Chronicle, but (laughing) it’s the part of The
Chronicle that tells you everything that’s on, all
the activities and that, so, you know, instead of, if
you know you have something, you don’t have anything
going on next Sunday, you could just look at the dashboard, see who needs help and say, you know what, I can drive that person
to the craft store, it’s no big deal and then the community is building and building and building. Just statistics right now, our Village, we’re about 700 members and volunteers. Last year we provided over 6,000 services, 5,000 of those were different rides. Of the rides about 35
percent were for medical, the rest were for social,
errands, programs, activities and things like that. We’ve had members that have
said that there would be no way that they could continue
to live in their home in the community without our help and we just know that it’s a good thing. I know we’re gonna have more
hard questions to answer in a second, but that’s kind
of The Village in a nutshell. It is grass roots and it
comes from the community and we welcome all the volunteers and if anybody lives in
Berkeley, Ashby has a Village, Oakland has a Village, Lamorinda, so Lafayette and Orinda, and it goes almost
anywhere in the bay area, there’s a Village. – Great. Do you wanna do into the technology? – Maybe. I wanted to add maybe a personal touch on the role of The Village. I personally got involved
in The Village Movement because my mom was retiring and in her example, she got knee surgery, she needed to stop working and for me it was really
easy to tell my mom, well, just, you can retire now and there, she said no,
I’m not sitting in front of t.v., so I think for me,
one of the very important contributions of The
Village is giving meaning to a person’s life, like my mom, which is saying, well,
just sitting in front of the t.v. and having society
expecting nothing from me doesn’t work. We know the system will be under pressure. Social security and Medicare really need all the seniors contributing to society and if I can put my mom, you
know, having a meaningful life, that’s very important. The second thing, I really feel my mom
getting socially isolated. She says it, she says, “I
will be in front of my t.v.” She enjoys the company of
her colleagues, et cetera, but now that’s she done, there’s
no natural social network for my mom. Like, well, she has
some family, obviously, she will keep seeing my sister, Trisha, she asks my sister for everything, like grocery shopping, et cetera and then I realized, mom, you cannot rely on only having a one
person social network. You need a new group of people. My mom replied, “I’m not
joining a senior center “or old people group.” and I think she was right because the senior center
or senior organization is just not good enough and I think, you know, you were mentioning about The Village term. I think one of missions here, is to say well, The Village
concept is really cool. It’s like, you can stay at home, you are an active senior, there’s a lot of people out
there that need your help. You can have a meaningful life. When you’re other people,
actually, neurologically, even, there are health benefits. Just volunteering for other people, research proves that
it’s good for your brain. So, for me, as a son, now, not
as an engineer or anything, I would say, if I can have my mom joining a local community of people that help each other, that meet,
volunteer for other people, receive some needs, well
that’s just the magic solution. This is why I think The Village
is actually the solution for this overall problem of, you know, aging is just, we need to
get the seniors together and collaborating to
building the future they want and take control of their lives. – One final question on
The Village Movement is, who benefits the most
from The Village Movement, different Villages and who are the people who would benefit, but decide not to join? And why? – So, I think the
community benefits the most because those members that may need help are getting it. Those people who can give
some help are giving it. There’s less demand on some
of our community services and you have more happy,
healthy, people in general and it sounds kind of corny, but I do think that’s true. People who could use the
services that don’t ask, you know, there’s certain cohorts, so there’s certain generations
that won’t ask for help. They don’t want to ask for
help even if they need it. So, trying to find
those folks is not easy. There are a lot of what
we called elder orphans, seniors who do not have family and do not have somebody to lean on. Those are the folks, I
think, that could really use our services and because
The Village Movement is so new, many people just
haven’t ever heard of it. So, I think that’s big barrier
and challenge right now, is we’re not a place,
we’re not a building, and it’s a simple
concept, but people really haven’t heard of it or don’t get it and if you’re isolated, it’s even harder to bring new ideas into
someone who’s isolated and by themselves. – Manuel, would you like
to go into Helpful Village and the history of what it has done? – Yeah, I would happy to
add on the technology piece, but before I go into the technology piece, I would like maybe to address a question, is that, obviously, our technologies for The Village concept, I would like to ask
maybe the other speakers their opinion if that’s
the most efficient option and I chose the right one
or if they see some other alternative solutions for, you know, building communities
or senior communities, is there anything else besides Villages or Villages is the
obvious response for that and if it’s the obvious response, I will tell you how technology can help. (laughing) – So, just to think about that, you know, Villages are
a response to a problem that probably shouldn’t’ exist and what I mean by that is,
Villages, The Village concept, is a way for people to
create a sense of community with one another and ideally,
we should have that already. Ideally, in our neighborhoods, people should know one another and we should do things
do things for one another and we should be there for one another, but we live in a society
that really values privacy and independence and for a
whole variety of reasons, the kind of connections that we’ve had at various times in history, are not there in the same degree. I mean, here we are
Berkeley, Robert Putnam, you know, wrote this book years ago, Bowling Alone, the idea that the things that have brought us together
in previous generations don’t do as much anymore. Villages are not the only
way, there’s all kinds of neighborhood groups that
are formal or informal, mostly informal, of
people coming together, but Villages are unique
in that they really are built on the idea of
people helping one another, also, creating social connections and doing it with a facilitator, with somebody who, or some group of people who really help to make it happen. So, is it the only way to do it? No. Are there other examples
in the U.S. and frankly, all over the world, yes, and in some ways The Village is sort of a quintessentially American answer because it combines both
privacy and also some amount of sort of shared responsibility. – I wanted to focus on us,
so yes is the only answer. (laughing) – Yeah, I think you’re right, but only because the definition
of Village is so broad. (laughing) That many things are
villages, just, you know, a community of people
that care about each other and support each other, specifically for seniors, though, I think, it’s the solution that makes sense. Now, from that point of view, I would say, if that’s the obvious solution, why aren’t here 10,000
Villages across the nation? What do you think? – Well, I can tell you because
it takes a lot of work. You know, it’s a lot of dedication. It’s a lot of work. Anything that’s grass roots
and I’m gonna call this social activism, in a lot of respects, has to start somewhere and people have to be passionate
about it and build it up. I mean, I think the
things that we’re seeing with the technology and the challenges that we face with the technology, is because the grass root
individuals right now, who are building the Villages are retired, for the most part. Dealing with the newest,
latest, greatest technology, and watching that change
as you’re trying to build something at the time that’s
very social and hands on, technology can help with
processes, procedures and things like that, but that human relationship is a time consuming, human
thing, that needs to take place, so what the technology,
what’s really important for us older people in the technology is making it as simple as possible and as consistent as possible across all the different platforms. So, I think that there’s
research that says, the senior population
are one of the largest, you know, adopters of
iPads or something that, so it’s not because older
people don’t like technology, we love it, but when you
have to go from one system to another and all the
interfaces different and everything looks different
and the log-ons are different and we’re expected to
administer, you know, we’re the system administrators there. It has to be logical, simple, easy, and whoever is going to
use that on the other end has to be able to look at
it and intuitively know how it’s gonna work, then you’re gonna get a
high level of adoption and people are not gonna
be afraid of using it. – Yeah, so that’s an easy transition because the whole point of us entering as a UC Berkeley Start-up is that Villages have been trying to do
it without technologies or with very little technology
and sending emails out or with Excel sheets,
et cetera, originally, some others started with
some level of sophistication, but obviously, Silicon Valley technology and our start-up in particular, the whole point is saying we can make this way easier. If I want my mom to
volunteer and help Barbara and take her to the ride, I will think, well, my mom doesn’t have
this app on her phone with very large buttons, very readable, because my mom doesn’t have
a perfect view, et cetera, we are making it too hard for them and for a very long time, we
have been inviting seniors to use technology that
was designed for kids, like, even my mom goes for
her social interactions online on Facebook, but
Facebook was initially done for Harvard students. You have chat on the side, the events, plus the discussion, plus
the, you can say this or that, result is that the
technology was so complex, my mom barely reads it or likes a thing and shares a thing, she’s not even talking because it’s just not
that obvious to understand how the whole thing works. So, I think that if we build technology that is just straight to
the point, simple process, readable, large buttons, we can have much more social
interaction among the seniors and that’s the whole
purpose of our technology. This is how we successfully, I mean, approached Marin Villages,
that is using the mobile app to have volunteers pick the activities they want to volunteer for and also other options I want to mention also was Lamorinda Village,
who’s using our technology for the events program, where basically, automatically, we get the list of events that are tailored for seniors from the country libraries. Before they were copy and
pasting all the events. We needed that information, but that job should not be
on the Villagers shoulders or the Village coordinators shoulders, that’s the technology responsibility. So, my take on it and I think that’s, I think the impact of technology
on The Village Movement is that, if we can save the Villagers 90 percent of their time on that entry, on fighting against the computer, making it really easy so
that you can use technology to send, you know, like the emails out or do the Facebook promotion automatically or make it super easy to
volunteer and find events where basically, more Villages will arise because it’s just much
easier to create a new one in a different location. – I guess we’ll go to what are the results of the implementation of Helpful Village and its services? – So, we’ve been using Helpful Village since June and I’ll just
tell you what we had to do before, so we’d have a database and I have what’s called
a hub and spoke model, so my group manages
eight different Villages in Marin county. We needed, talk about cut and paste, we communicated to our
volunteers through Gmail, so and we had to separate
our volunteers by Village, so the community in which they lived. So, I don’t know if you
know about Marin county, but let’s say Mill Valley versus Novato, so if you were a Mill
Valley member and volunteer, you were in one Gmail distribution list, if you’re in Novato, you’re
in another distribution list, so we had distribution
lists that we had to keep up by Village and by type of service. So, if you can imagine
trying to keep that matrix up in Gmail distribution lists,
then when we had less activity, we’d send out an email saying, member A would like this done, so that sent one email. We had 450 calls a month, so
in our most active Village, they had, I think, 140
requests in a month. So, that’s 140 emails that went to say, these people help. Well, if they dint’ get the help, then it was second call
when that email went out, so that’s what 140, 140, 280 and then the last call for
maybe a half or a quarter of those and then as a volunteer, you say, oh, I can do that. It’s like, great, so it’s done, but then you, the other
volunteers that reads the email say oh, I can do that and
then we have say oops, sorry, it’s already taken. So, you can see very quickly,
the office was imploding with the activity of keeping
track of these activities and the volunteers were
being spammed by our email. So, now what we do is, we use Helpful Village
specifically for that volunteer assignment activity. The member calls, we’ll
post it in Helpful Village, an email goes out in the morning, volunteers are reminded
there’s things that are open, they click on the email,
I call it a dashboard, I come from corporate, I don’t know, it’s a website, they click on the link, they open their dashboard,
it shows all the activities for their Village by the type of activity they signed up to do. So, if you signed up to be
driver, you’ll see all the rides. If you didn’t sign up to be a driver, you won’t see the rides, so you’ll only see those things
that are of interest to you and if you click you button, you can see, basically, where that member lives, not their exact address and you can see where they wanna go, so you have a very good idea
of what you’re signing up for and you just click a button
and you say I can do it. You get an email saying it’s yours, we get an email saying it’s hers. The opportunity is in not available for anybody else to choose because it’s no longer open, it disappears from the dashboard and it’s done. We call the member back,
they know who’s coming, so it just eliminated Monday morning, opening your email and
seeing probably, 60 emails and then trying to figure
out what’s going on. So, that simple, simple, technology just cut the workflow down by
about 6 different processes. That allows us, then, to focus
on more important things, like why isn’t this volunteer
ever responding to anything or how come we can’t get
a ride for this member, what’s going on there, as
opposed to just matching emails to members. So, that’s just a really quick overview of what technology can do
from a workflow standpoint. – Yeah, I will add, maybe, another thing, is that Marin is a
super efficient Village, you know it when you went
there, Marin knows it, the members knew it, but I’m very happy about another additional
benefit of technology is that we can now produce data and we have discussions
also with Professor Sharlach about improving the efficiency
of The Village Model. If we have these volunteers
giving some time for free to provide a transportation
program and maybe the county or maybe the city had a
transportation program that it was not as efficient, maybe now we have a possibility to say, well, if we are the most
efficient way to provide some types of services for seniors, shouldn’t the government, the county, or the city or I don’t know who, actually pay for this too? Which basically raises another question, is how do we fund The Village Movement. Today’s maybe membership fees, but if that’s an efficient model, maybe it’s also the local
agencies role to pay for that and if we have maybe
the government entering in that aspect, maybe
opening up the opportunity for other members of the community that maybe couldn’t those membership fees, so I think technology can also even change the way we fund these Villages and improve the financial sustainability
and by the way, I would like to mention, a person I met at the national
conference, Carol Paquette, is one of the villagers from
the Washington D.C. area and she mentioned to me,
kind of, the main challenges for Villages today and I
think she was perfectly right, so I wanted to mention her name. One is, financial
sustainability of Villages. They all want to do more, but can only do so much if they don’t have more
financial resources. If we can prove with data that we have a huge
impact on the community, that our seniors are healthier, that are more socially engaged, et cetera, maybe we can find more
additional funding resources and the second thing she mentioned, was basically advertising. It was like, how do we
let people know about the Village Model or how
do we raise awareness of the elected officials
about the good things we are doing? And I think it’s connected
because basically, this event we’re having today is basically because we’re bringing
change to the movement, saying we can do this more efficiently, we can be super proud and
make The Village Movement a super cool concept
because it’s easy to join, it’s the right idea for
a person like my mom, it’s unique to do this
because it’s the real solution and if we make it real cool,
really cool, basically, we can spread out the word
much more efficiently. – So, just one thing with the data. We use a lot of data, so
where I would have to filter a lot of excel spreadsheets,
I’m very hopeful because we’re working on that next week, that all of my reports are
just automatically generated because they’re there in the system. The second thing is, to the
extent that many Villages are using the same type of reporting, at some point, it’d be much
easier for us to consolidate our data and then show our
affect on a larger scale, the Villages throughout the area, that we have a volunteer
driving organization and we’ve just been trying
to collect, for instance, data on our trips to and from, taking people to and from Kaiser, you know, if we look at that, being able to capture that data, how many times did we go
to take somebody to Kaiser and back for their medical appointment. At some point and time when
you have the economy as scales, you can make a case to
Kaiser or some of the other health care delivery
systems that we are reducing readmissions because
your patients are going to their doctors appointments
and we are preventing potential medical expenses
because your patients are going to their appointments,
reducing the risk of falls because these patients or these people are getting out in the community and they’re walking and they’re
going to balancing classes or they’re learning about fall prevention, so that’s the data now
that we’ll be challenged and you know, 2.0, Village 2.0, is finding out, you
know, what are we doing and then trying to get the economy to make a difference in a
large organizations budget, you know, and that’s using that same data, capturing it, consolidating it, and then going together as a larger group, I think we’re gonna have some
powerful stories to tell. – What would be the future that you see between Helpful Village
and The Village Movement in general? Where do you see it going? – So, in a perfect world,
if say, Helpful Village was the platform for The Village Movement, as far as the technology
platform is concerned, one, it would help the
Villages to recognize and kind of, even monetize our impact. The other thing is, to the
extent that it’s providing an easy way to allow people to volunteer, there’s a lot of volunteer organizations in every city. We’ve got Rotaries, Lions, Elks, SIRS, I mean, just tons of other
organizations out there who are always challenged
with how to let their people know about volunteering opportunities, so to make this kind of a community wide, age friendly, volunteer platform, would be, you know, 3.0. (laughing) – Are there any final
statements or comments you would like to make? – No, I just wondered
whether we’d have time for maybe a couple questions, yeah. – Any more questions from the audience? – This will probably be for you. On the people side of it,
I’m curious how you ensure the safety of members in
terms of the screening of volunteers (muffled) – So, yeah, so a lot of
people also say, hey, you know, there’s Next Door, you know, they do the same thing, they’ll say hey, I need a ride and things like that. Next Door is great for a lot of things, but our volunteers are vetted, so they get a criminal background checks and if they’re drivers they do DMV checks and we also sign a waiver and a pledge saying that they have a
proper amount of insurance if they’re driving, they
hold the members harmless if some accident happens in the house. A member signs a similar
waiver to say that they’ll hold the volunteer harmless. Working with the senior community, it’s a frail and vulnerable community, so they need that extra
level of protection relative to background
checks and things like that. – Any other questions? – So, I used Next Door a lot– – Do people know what Next Door is? Do you wanna say what Next Door is? – Sure, you basically
determine, it’s kind of like a neighborhood posting board and you can carry on conversations, have debates, sell items, you know, ask for help and one of the
tings that I really like about it is, it’s very empowering to the people, like, I’ve had debates on Next Door and I thought it was really a good way to A, get to know your
neighbors, to socialize, to really your viewpoint out there and I think that that’s
something that maybe, you know, it would be great, I don’t know if you’re incorporating that, you could use the ability
to do like Skypeing or Facetime, you know, to
create like a social community empowering the people, you know, seniors and that sort of thing, so
I mean, that’s just kind of, thoughts maybe. – I think, we’re looking
at trying to get meet-ups, you know, last minute
requests, things like that, people have, we just have a member who wants to donate her
hearing aides, you know, those were 6,000 dollars if
you had to buy it yourself and we don’t really have a
good mechanism to do that, so we’re looking, potentially, that Manuel can get that type of online bulletin board to have an even more
grass root interaction with the members and volunteers, so it doesn’t necessarily have
to come through the office. I want to go to a movie
tonight, anybody want to go? You know, it’s a closed community, so we still have sense of security, as opposed to Next Door,
where, as nice as it is, at times you find people suggesting their brother-in-law or sister-in-law are the best person for the jobs, so you really don’t know
who’s coming to your house, so I think there’s a lot of potential and there’s a lot of opportunity. And it’s technology that’s
gonna help us get there. – Yeah, no, I’d say a similar thing, I think one of the most
important things of The Village is the trusted community
and that, you know, Next Door obviously has the
openness of anyone can get in, you can, you know, serendipity of knowing a different person, but I think, we really value the fact of the people that are in the platform can be vetted as you
said, for the volunteers, but even the members are, for example, one example I had is my mom
bought an insurance policy on the phone. You could get the same thing on Next Door. Someone sold you something you didn’t know and we want to build a safer environment in the sense of, we
prefer locking some doors, leaving some people out, you know, losing some of that openness, but really having a trusted community, if you find a provider, or for example, we don’t do advertising for you know, for some
service that we don’t know, like, really, Villages have, and for example, we’re doing
that with Lamorinda, too, is like a list of trusted providers that made a commitment of
serving the senior community with respect and with different things and basically, we let people in only when they really proved
that they were really safe and the other thing is that, as we are senior
specific, ultimately also, it’s made specifically for seniors, like readable, accessible, et cetera, so really, sometimes we make the choice of saying, let’s remove some functionality or some buttons. We don’t want to have an interface that allows to do 20 things
that be more powerful, but also more complex, but just the right mix for
maybe a senior that wants to, you know, go step by step and doing things in an easy, but obviously,
we use and have a look, I mean, we have connections
to post an event on Facebook for those that are in
Facebook, you know what I mean and we can have connection
with other technologies, but basically, yeah, I don’t
think we are really competing. – Great, our time is up, but
I’d like to thank you all for coming and thank to our speakers for taking the time out. (applause)

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