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High Country Villas near Olivenhain will soon launch Village Encinitas, a new volunteer-based program helping seniors live independently at home. Courtesy photo
High Country Villas near Olivenhain will soon launch Village Encinitas, a new volunteer-based program helping seniors live independently at home. Courtesy photo
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Launching soon, Village Encinitas aims to help seniors stay in homes

ENCINITAS — Next month, a planned senior community near Olivenhain will test Village Encinitas, a new volunteer-based program that helps older residents live independently in their homes. 

High Country Villas, a 55-and-older community with 540 homes near Olivenhain, is expected to begin the pilot project next month. 

The project, Village Encinitas, was formed in the spring of 2023 when Encinitas Senior Citizen Commissioner Jesse Hanwit and senior health professionals Amy Stuck and Chris Crowley decided to launch a program that helps seniors where they live.

The idea is based on Helpful Village’s “Village Movement,” a nationwide effort to help seniors continue to live and age in their own homes with support from community volunteers.

According to Hanwit, who is now a board member of Village Encinitas alongside Stuck and Crowley, the project needed to be tested on a smaller scale in a single community before it could be expanded to the entire city of Encinitas. 

“If we wanted to do this, it would be worthwhile to start in High Country Villas,” Hanwit said. “We have a self-contained community here – we could go through all the steps to make it happen easier than trying to do it for the entire city right off the bat.”

Hanwit and the other board members introduced the concept to more than 50 residents of High Country Villas at a May meeting. Residents identified six key areas of need: transportation, technology, health, in-home assistance, personal connections and administrative assistance. 

Since then, Village Encinitas has become an officially recognized nonprofit organization. The board has been holding regular meetings with volunteers with the goal of launching next month.

Earlier this year, the city of Encinitas awarded Village Encinitas $1,500 from its community grant program to help with the nonprofit’s startup and launch efforts.

The program works by having individuals and teams of volunteers step in to help their neighbors who need it with tasks like grocery shopping, going to doctor appointments, moving furniture, using the computer, and even taking out the trash and returning the garbage cans.

Residents with limited mobility can also volunteer to provide assistance by phone to their neighbors.

“There are people with limited mobility who live here and want to help but they can’t move or drive – but they can answer the phone,” Hanwit said.

The program also provides opportunities for seniors to socialize with others.

According to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), nearly one in four adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated, which increases their risk of premature death from all causes, a 50% increased risk of dementia, a 29% increase risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke, among others.

Board members hope to have the program up and running by mid-July and plan to present further information in the fall about launching it citywide.

To learn more about the pilot project, visit https://encinitas.helpfulvillage.com.

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