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Neuse Neighbors Network
Helping seniors age in place
November 13, 2019

C
hanging the batteries in a fire alarm. Getting a ride to the grocery store. Picking up flower pots in the yard before a hurricane.

Neighbors help each other out. As people age, more assistance is needed. Simple tasks become harder. Finding people to help, without feeling like a burden, is difficult. And then come the discussions about moving to cities and towns with more resources. About moving away from Oriental.

Neuse Neighbors Network Neuse Neighbors Network (NNN), a new non-profit organization in Oriental, wants to help delay that move and possibly keep it from happening at all. “We’re doing what a good neighbor would do,” says Cathy Brugett, a board member for the organization.

NNN began in Oriental in 2017. A screening of the movie Being Mortal, a PBS documentary about life and the process of dying, was the jumping off point. The film discussed the value of aging in place – the ability for seniors to stay in their homes as long as possible.

The idea had already gained traction in other communities, particularly where residents were typically more self-reliant. A local volunteer network was created, pairing requests with able and willing participants that do everything from transportation, to dog walking, to going out for a walk.

“The statistics are that with this kind of help available, I will be able to stay in my home longer – to stay here where I want to be,” says Donna Creech, NNN board member and liaison to Prime Time, an organization that provides social activities and health advocacy for seniors.

Neuse Neighbors Network serves Pamlico County along the Neuse River, covering much of the same area as Prime Time. Members must be 50 years old at minimum.

Volunteers are all ages and are vetted with rigorous background checks. Members submit requests to the network by phone or through a member portal. Volunteers contact members to confirm the request and set the schedule.

Neuse Neighbors Network
Neuse Neighbors Network volunteers can help with small, household chores like checking and changing the batteries in a fire alarm.

Board members and volunteers were the ‘guinea pigs’ in the trial run of NNN at the end of 2018, working out software glitches, liability questions, and how to handle odd requests. In April of 2019, the program was deemed stable, effective, and ready to launch.

“Transportation is the vast majority of the requests,” says Brugett. “Then quality of life – people asking for help walking their dogs, for example. And we’re getting more requests for household chores.”

Every aspect of NNN is volunteer. “We’ll do anything that a volunteer is willing to do,” says Brugett. “Conversely we can only do for you what a volunteer is willing to do.”

Members pay a small fee, $120 for single households and $150 for couples. That pays for insurance, background checks, and the software used by NNN to connect members and volunteers. To help members, NNN has a coupon system that gives members a discount at local businesses. They also maintain a recommended provider list – businesses that members recommend to other members for services like lawn work or small handyman jobs.

Brugett explained why this network works. “Although in the past, [members] might have reached out to a friend or a neighbor or a family member, they felt guilty about burdening them. With us,” she says, “it’s guilt-free.” As a member of Neuse Neighbors Network, they’re paying for a service.

Neuse Neighbors Network
Donna Creech logs into the Neuse Neighbors Network site to make a request.

In addition to climbing ladders to change lightbulbs and walking the dog after surgery, NNN can help in other ways. “The technological aspect is a huge benefit,” says Creech.

As a board member, she is also a volunteer, and a Neuse Neighbors Network member. “I’ve got some issues with my phone that I can’t figure out, I’m supposed to be able to see my computer on my television, I have Dropbox and I’ve been through the tutorial, but I have questions – I’m not sure. They’re not big things, but they’re things that I have not been able to figure out,” she says. “I’m going to put in a request for help with those things.”

There is also the social side of NNN. “We got a lot of people who live alone, who don’t like to drive at night, and they certainly wouldn’t drive to New Bern. What if I enjoy the symphony and it’s going to be there? Or want to go to the library or just shopping where it’s not right around here?”

Creech says Neuse Neighbors has the answer for that as well. “If I put it into Neuse Neighbors and said I would love to go on this day and this time, a transportation volunteer would see that and could go.”

NNN works to keep members informed. At the beginning of hurricane season, NNN sent out a notice reminding members to make their requests to prepare for hurricane season. Soon, they’ll send out a notice to check smoke detectors.

Along with basic pet care, providing a ride to New Bern, and helping with the chores, Neuse Network Neighbors volunteers will be ready help change the batteries, too.

Related Information

Posted Wednesday November 13, 2019 by Allison DeWeese


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