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Shuford Abernethy is going home — sort of — and he’s being a good neighbor about it.
Abernethy, president of Abingdon Senior Housing Services, developed Abingdon Glen Village in Hickory, an active adult town home community.
While Abernethy and his wife were visiting in Boston several years ago, they visited Beacon Hill Village.
The member-driven organization — for residents 50 and older — provides programs and services so members can lead active and healthy lives while living in their own homes and neighborhoods.
“We became interested and attended the annual conference in November 2010,” Abernethy said. “We came back and presented it to the Council on Aging (COA), whose board formed an advisory council in Newton and Conover to explore the possibility of starting the concept for those 55 and older.”
The advisory council purchased Beacon Hill’s founder’s manual and used that to guide them in walking through the steps.
Abingdon Senior Housing purchased a house in Conover for the COA to lease for Neighbors Network. But, it’s not just any house. The house was built in 1926 and was the home of Roland and Rena Bolick. Bolick served as mayor of Conover in the 1930s.
“It’s part of my heritage — Roland and Rena were my grandparents,” Abernethy said. “My mother grew up here, and my parents married here. I practically grew up playing here.”
Abernethy said he hated to see it decline and looked for a reason to purchase the house and a use for it. He didn’t have to look far. With renovation, retro-fitting for handicap facilities and adequate parking, the old home place on the corner of First Ave. S. and Seventh St. Pl. SW, in Conover, could serve as the new home for Neighbors Network.
“As we looked for a name for it, we thought the 'Mayor’s House' was a nice name,” he said.
As a part of the National Village-to-Village Network, Neighbors Network (NN) brings participants in the Newton-Conover area together to support one another, gain independence and make everyday responsibilities easier and more enjoyable.
“The gist of it is that it’s a membership program geared for its members that join to help each other remain independent,” Abernethy said.
Neighbors Network defines a limited geographical area to serve.
“You want to create a neighborhood. So to start with, Newton and Conover will be our neighborhood,” he said. “The program will have events, activities and meetings geared to get members to know one another and help each other. It’s not a planned community – it’s geared to help folks where they are.”
Recent statistics from the Western Piedmont Council of Government indicate that between 2000 and 2010, the 65 and older population group grew 65 percent, while the 18-30 group declined.
“People need to look out for each other,” Abernethy said. “Part of Neighbors Network is to build a network of friends.”
At the same time, though, NN is searching for service providers to satisfy the needs of its members. The provider businesses will be vetted to guarantee quality and a cost savings.
It is a sort of neighborhood center that combines efforts to get better prices and discounts, an outlet where neighbors can help each other with everything from balancing a check book to visiting the doctor’s office. It is a place where neighbors can gather together for activities, programs, events and enjoy social interaction.
“The open floor plan and large rooms in the Mayor’s House makes it an ideal clubhouse to have yoga classes, line dancing and bridge club,” Abernethy said.
The affordable membership program provides participants the support and confidence to live life to the fullest at home.
“We’re still in the process of forming our own program and trying to determine a fee that is affordable and offers what is needed,” Abernethy said. “We’re looking at $450 a year.”
There are benefits to being neighborly, and Neighbors Network motto is “our home helps you enjoy your home.”
The values provided by membership are designed to be especially rewarding to adults 55 and older who prefer to remain safely in their own home. Residents and homeowners with disabilities or other challenges will benefit; just as anyone who prefers the security of knowing that Neighbors Network service providers are vetted, proven and provide discounts or benefits exclusive to members.
Neighbors Network members also gain access to social and learning opportunities that are custom-tailored to their interests; all designed to create a greater quality of life.
Day trips, social gatherings, seminars and interest groups are all part of the offerings.
The staff takes a special interest in members and keeps check upon their well-being, reminding them of important appointments such as doctor vists and provides transportation to satisfy needs.
It is the perfect solution to create peace of mind for children with elder parents or parents of special needs children; all preferring to live in the comfort of their own home.
Neighbors Network is a part of the national Village-to-Village network and plans to get its program in Newton and Conover underway later in 2012.
The Village-to-Village Network supports this type of program that started with Beacon Hill Village in Boston, Mass. in 2000 and has grown to include nearly 200 such programs that are operating or are in development across the nation.
Neighbors Network is being formed as a part of the Catawba County Council on Aging.