MAC Inc Engages Salisbury University Students in Matchmaking With CFES Support

How can I remain home safely and comfortably for as long as

possible? This popular question is puzzling smart retirees, concerned families, community

organizations, academics and others. Three local entities are getting answers “straight from the

horse’s mouth” via private conversations in September. It’s all part of a matchmaking process

across all generations or neighbors helping neighbors to safely stay together in the old


MAC INC, the Area Agency on Aging for the Lower Eastern Shore, the Women’s Fund

at CFES and Salisbury University students in Dr. Whitehead’s Social Psychology class are

partnering to conduct a door-to-door survey between September 4th and September 26th. It’s all

part of a feasibility study to determine what is really needed by our seniors to avoid a premature

move from their current home because some critical support for their health or overall wellbeing

is missing.

In at least 30 other Maryland communities, seniors are living longer and stronger in their

own homes because they are exchanging needed support with one another. Some are calling

these operations time banks and others are calling them village co-ops. Typically a non-profit

organization like MAC INC assigns full time staff to manage the day to day operations of the co-

ops and time banks. While the offerings vary, their success is linked to a good understanding of

what seniors need and what they are able to offer in return for services. The survey is designed

to improve our understanding of needs and offerings.

Dr. Renée S. Fredericksen, Special Projects Director for MAC INC, describes the co-op

or time bank concepts in this way, “It’s like the old food co-ops and child care time banks I used

in the 1970’s as a young working mother. We each had a small garden. We’d take our produce to

the co-op market each week – a bag of potatoes, jars of jam, home-made soaps etc. We’d catch

up on local news together as we traded our goods and in a short while return home with a cloth

bag full of different items we needed throughout the week. It was neighbor supporting

neighbor with good, fresh, and more importantly affordable food. Some of us were working full

time in their homes/neighborhoods and others outside the home. Child care cost less in those

days than it does now but it was still a bite out of our small pay checks. We were just as

concerned about good care as mothers are today. Our solution to good affordable care was a time

bank system. I would take care of my kids and the neighbor’s while she worked Mon. – Wed.

and then she would take all the kids while I worked Thurs. – Sat. We kept track of the hours in a

time bank so no-one was taken advantage of. Today’s co-ops and time-banks are working for

people of all ages needing a helping hand or oversight. Neighbors are swapping everything from

rides to help with taxes or regular home maintenance.” The most widely recognized “village co-

op” for all generations is Beacon Hill in Massachusetts.

Fredericksen has received inquiries over the past three years regarding how to set up a

village co-op out of the Caregiver Resource Center (CRC) at MAC INC. She feels, “The time is

right and Wicomico is the right place to start, given a culture concerned about the wellbeing of

all members and the aging of our neighborhoods in a very busy world.” On top of the research

the CRC is conducting to find out what spells success for other co-ops, Fredericksen knows it is

critical to go “straight to the horse’s mouth” or the consumer to find out what is needed and what

can be provided by neighbors to support each other in a neighborhood. Her partners at CFES and

Salisbury University are helping the CRC to get the answers with supporting funds and survey

teams made up of students, respectively.

The “Village People” development, envisioned by Fredericksen and others attending her

recent community conversations on this topic, will likely include a co-op, time bank and

clearinghouse to assure quality services/supports. Co-ops are generally direct exchanges

between neighbors like the food exchange example above. Time banks are more like an

insurance pool where neighbors volunteer to perform a task and are credited with hours they

deposit into a bank instead of dollars. Like regular banks, neighbors go to the time bank to

withdraw time credits or hours to pay for services they can no longer perform on their own, as

needed. A clearing house would be responsible to test paid vendors. If the vendor is able to pass

the tests they are “cleared” to be on a recommended list of vendors who meet quality standards

and community expectations.

The complexities of each system are ironed out by staff using a sophisticated tracking

system of hours, skills, recommended vendors for professional services etc. The system keeps

track of everything from what neighbors are contributing when, where, how often and at what

cost if any to which neighbors are in need of what. Fredericksen describes it as similar to a

well run “match making service.” The clearing house requires yet another set of responsibilities

to effectively screen and list high quality, reliable vendors at affordable rates.

The Village People project is a large undertaking involving volunteers, organizations,

large and small businesses, So it is being approached cautiously. It all begins with a community

survey of needs and potential contributions. To learn more about the Village People project or

conducting the survey as a volunteer team member or obtaining and returning a survey form with

your suggestions contact: Dr. Renée S. Fredericksen, MAC INC – 909 Progress Circle,

Salisbury, MD 21804 or 410.742.0505 x 172 or

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