Neighbors Network Taking Root

Neighbors Network, a new program focused on making it easier for older adults to live in their own homes as long as possible, is continuing to grow as staff members work hard to spread the word about services.

Supported by a start-up grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF), the Neighbors Network is a non-profit membership organization for adults age 55+ who reside in Winter Park, Maitland, Eatonville and several surrounding communities. Members have access to screened volunteers and service providers to help with chores they can’t handle like fixing a door, or changing light bulbs, or even getting computer assistance.

The program, which began late, last year, has attracted additional support from the Florida Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA) and the University of Central Florida (UCF) in the form of two small grants.

neighbors network photoDOEA’s grant provides safety and accessibility education and resources to existing members who are in need of home modifications. This $5,000 grant, which was awarded as part of DOEA’s Communities for a Lifetime Initiative, includes a home assessment, modification recommendations, and provision of agreed-upon services to interested Neighbors Network homeowners.  Services to be provided may include: pressure washing exterior walkways; installing grab bars; replacing inadequate lighting with energy-efficient, long-life bulbs; and replacing throw rugs with non-slip bath mats.

UCF’s grant was awarded through the Learning Institute for Elders program and will support the creation, implementation and analysis of a survey to identify how health, community involvement, social relationships, and opinions about neighborhoods contribute to interest in aging in place among older adults.

Neighbors Network currently has 16 members ranging in age from 57 to 93. About half of the members volunteer to help other members, and three members also volunteer to drive for ITN-Orlando, a membership transportation service for older adults. Neighbors Network has a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and recently added a blog to its website to boost its visibility on the Internet.

New initiatives include membership campaigns targeting specific neighborhoods with a large number of older residents, such as Winter Park Pines, Lake of the Woods, and Oak Harbour.

Neighbors Network has captured the interest of volunteers of all ages.  A few of the activities that background-screened volunteers have performed include yard clean up; reading mail and important papers to a member with vision impairment; cleaning out closets and storage rooms; transporting documents for off-site shredding; and providing a meal to a member returning from a day of medical tests.  To learn more, and view a video about the Neighbors Network, click here.