Northland News

Dual efforts aimed at helping senior citizens

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The Northland Area Business Association and the Northland Alliance are working on two initiatives to benefit the neighborhood's aging population.

And it is aging.

"We've been consistently astounded at the number of older people and their families who live in the Northland area," said Dave Paul, past president of the Northland Community Council, a member of the Alliance and a participant in the Senior Services Roundtable of Columbus and Franklin County. "We have a population that is aging as the overall population is aging."

"There are a lot of different senior services we're trying to advocate for in the Northland area because there's such a large population," Alliance Chairwoman Joyce Bourgault said.

The business organization, President Dave Cooper said last week, is actively seeking to build on the successful conversion of a former nursery on East Dublin-Granville Road into what is now the National Church Residences Center for Senior Health-North.

The stretch of state Route 161 east of Interstate 71, once home to destination sit-down restaurants, gave way to fast-food eateries -- and of late, many of those have relocated.

On the other front, Northland Alliance members are exploring the possibility of bringing some version of the Village Connections program to the neighborhood.

"Village Connections is an urban, community-based nonprofit organization that empowers members to lead an active and engaged lifestyle in their own homes as they age," according to the German Village-based program's website.

"By providing a network of high-quality, person-centered resources for members' evolving needs, this grass-roots organization offers information and referrals to cost-effective services and activities designed to enhance members' health and wellness; support their social, educational and cultural interests; and foster member to member volunteer support."

Village Connections also "activates neighborhood volunteers who assist members with transportation and minor household chores and screens vendors who provide discounted home maintenance, home care and other services," according to the website.

Village Connections volunteers provide transportation to medical appointments, minor home maintenance and yard work, computer troubleshooting and safety monitoring.

Longtime Northland resident Fran Ryan, who relocated a few years ago to German Village, was among those who spearheaded development of Village Connections.

"I think of it as a cooperative in the sense that folks become members of this organization and then, in effect, extract services from it," Paul said. "Folks are sort of banking against their future or perhaps current needs for services, such as transportation. Exactly what kind of services it might provide is something the program would need to determine after a lot of community input."

"It does help people stay in their homes," Bourgault said.

Village Connections has a membership fee of $500 a year for an individual, $750 for a household, and there are charges for the services.

As for repurposing buildings and sites along East Dublin-Granville Road as care facilities and senior housing, Cooper said it could bring about the reinvention of that major corridor along the lines of what's taken place along Morse Road.

"We're working on any of these properties that anyone is willing to listen and talk to us about these buildings and their conversion," Cooper said. "We're doing everything we can with all the property owners along there."

"If you look at the needs of the community ... when things move out, we like to move in things that the community is telling us these are the needs," Bourgault said. "Senior services are a huge need. I can see that being a corridor where there are going to be a lot of senior services."

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