Darien senior program offers dozens of free services
From grocery shopping, to getting a ride to the doctor, to snow removal, to lending an ear, At Home in Darien delivers.
At the recent hour-long annual meeting of At Home in Darien at the Darien Library, volunteers shared all the free services this organization provides to its members.
“This has been a particularly momentous year for us in 2019,” said Susan Bhirud, president.
At Home in Darien recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.
“We have grown tremendously in these past ten years,” said Gina Blum, executive director. “The organization was created based on what was truly needed in town and the result of a townwide survey. We surveyed, we listened to what people wanted and what was needed.”
According to Blum, At Home in Darien is “funded by fundraising, not by dues. So, there’s no fees to be a member. Everybody gets a membership card when they are 60.”
Darien resident Peter Eder, a former board member of At Home in Darien and an active volunteer in town, served as moderator of a panel discussion.
The panelists were Nina Miller, volunteer; Marian Castell, town historian; Peter Carnes, who is active in SCORE, the counseling service for small businesses; Jennifer Rideout, at Home in Darien office staff; and Ken Copolla, driver.
According to Eder, when surveyed, Darien seniors wanted four things: transportation, volunteer help, trusted services providers, and integration in the community.
At Home in Darien provides door-to-door service for Darien seniors. They can be taken anywhere within Darien, New Canaan, Stamford and Norwalk, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. At times, those hours can be extended.
There are two vehicles — a van for handicap accessibility and a Chrysler Sedan. The handicap accessible van has a ramp in the back that pulls down. A wheelchair can be pushed right into the back.
More than 3,400 rides were given last year. This year, through October, there have already been more than 3,500.
The average cost is about $13 a ride. There is a $5 suggested donation for riders. However, the organization collects about $1.50 per ride.
The majority of funding comes from donations.
At Home in Darien makes home visits for services such as changing a light bulb, and raking leaves. They also call people to check on their well-being.
There are 60 active volunteers. All interested volunteers are required to complete an application. They get a background check of their references, are interviewed and are then matched with a senior.
Volunteer drivers fill gaps that normal drivers can’t perform because of their schedules. They’ll assist the seniors and go shopping, stay with them, or assist them if they have to go into a doctor’s office.
The services provider program at At Home in Darien has about 75 providers who have been recommended by other seniors. They’re all interviewed and their background and their insurance is checked. The program is growing and welcomes all recommendations.
At Home in Darien offers a free home safety evaluation. The family and children’s agency sends a licensed person to the home who gives a medical checkup, looks at medications, learns about the senior’s lifestyle, and then walks through his or her house and offers safety tips and suggestions.
As part of its taxi voucher program, At Home in Darien received a state grant to supplement the price of a taxi ride. It sells vouchers in its office, at 2 Renshaw Road, to any senior or disabled person, for half their face value. There have been over 50 buyers for the program to date.
2,719 hours: the number of hours in 2018 that volunteers gave to At Home in Darien
3,500 At Home in Darien members age 60 years of age or older.
446 people used the organization’s driving services in 2018.
3,596 rides were given in 2018.
Eighty-eight percent of seniors want to stay in their homes as they age, according to a survey.
Aging in place is a term that’s used to describe people living in the residence of their choice as they age for as long as they’re able to do that.
Prior to 2009, there was interest in bringing the aging in place concept to Darien.
A pilot program called Aging in Place was formed in Darien 10 years ago.
There was also an organization called Gallivant that served older adults in town by providing transportation.
Aging in Place in Darien and Galavant merged in 2011 to create Aging in Place+Gallivant. It then became an independent, nonprofit, charitable organization.
In 2013, its name was changed to At Home in Darien.
To volunteer or donate to At Home in Darien, visit athomeindarien.org.