Sep. 25, 2013: A little more than five years ago, Gramatan Village, an organization designed to keep Bronxville-area people "aging in place," was begun. At its helm since year two has been its executive director, Julie Dalton, developing its programs and procedures and carrying out its mission to enable people in the greater Bronxville area to remain in this community in their older years.
Recently, MyhometownBronxville sat down with Julie in the Gramatan Village office on Pondfield Road to ask her questions about the organization and to ask where she sees it going. Following are the answers she provided.
How did you come to focus on senior citizens' care?
I’ve always been interested in helping older people have a better life. I first earned a certification from the University of North Texas as a certified aging service specialist, a certification which must be updated every two years by showing you are current in the latest developments in aging services, presenting at conferences, and publishing.
Then around 20 years ago I met a mentor in New York City who introduced me to a whole gamut of home- and community-based services for older citizens. After a number of years managing programs, I became the COO for Aging in America Community Services, an organization which serves over 5,000 people. The services provided included: case management, elder abuse counseling, meals on wheels, intergenerational programs, social adult day care programs, senior centers, and a variety of health and wellness programs.
Why did you choose to come to Bronxville?
Gramatan Village was just beginning at the time I interviewed. It offered an incredible opportunity to create something from the ground up. I knew that this village and Gramatan Village were on the cutting edge of providing services for older Americans. I was also acquainted with the services in Southern Westchester. It was the perfect place for me. I take great pride in the fact that we were the first "aging in place" organization in Westchester. Now there are 10 in Westchester.
What was the biggest challenge getting started?
Our founders knew they were committed to making this organization a reality but weren’t sure how to begin. There was no service delivery model and no overall plan of action. So I began by writing the initial plan for how we would get started. I also needed to learn the players in the community. We are here to coordinate and connect, so that was very important to do early on. One of our best resources is that we know who the good providers are in the community. That took time to learn.
Gradually, we added the programs we have today: care coordination where we assess the needs of an individual, referrals to reliable pre-screened service provides, links to government services, and referrals for housekeeping services, financial services, attorneys, nutrition services, and other senior centers. We also provide referrals to individual counseling for Medicare and Medicaid and recommend home maintenance workers such as plumbers, electricians, and computer technicians. Gramatan Village members also receive discounts from local merchants and some service providers.
Most important, we work one on one with our members. We do the leg work either to find a service provider that can meet their needs or in some cases do it ourselves. Some of the services are income based. Others are available to anyone.
What are you most proud of accomplishing?
One of the best things we’ve done is to provide nutrition education seminars. We noted that among our socially isolated members, there is a lack of good eating habits. We also instituted yoga classes to improve their mobility. We work hard to assist members behind the scenes to stay and live in their homes. At the same time, members need to get out of the house and socialize with others. To this end, we are providing some wonderful social and cultural programs. Earlier this year we went to the American Museum of the Moving Image. Members could go into a sound box and voice over scenes from a movie. One of our members voiced over Marilyn Monroe in Some Like is Hot. She did a great job. Socialization is very important for older people.
How is Gramatan Village unique?
Gramatan Village is part of a national movement of communities across the country that has chosen to establish grassroots membership organizations to enable seniors to stay in their homes safely and confidently as they grow older. They are formed by local people, are self-governing and self-supporting, and seek to consolidate and coordinate services for their members. They look for opportunities to collaborate with existing resources in the community and work one on one with their members. It is a holistic approach.
Today there are about 100 villages across the country in this movement. We share best practices and use the peer network to assist one another. Last fall I presented at a national conference. While there I learned a lot from other presentations.
Whom does Gramatan Village serve?
Gramatan Village serves residents of the greater Bronxville community, including the zip codes of 10708 (Bronxville), 10707 (Tuckahoe), 10552 (adjacent Mount Vernon), and the 10708 PO in Yonkers. We serve people 60 years and above plus their families, with a greater focus on those 85 years and older, who often need more care.
How does Gramatan Village coordinate with other community organizations and services?
We collaborate on special outings, work with the Bronxville and Tuckahoe senior citizens organizations, make referrals and receive referrals from other senior providers, and work with the Eastchester Department of Senior Programs and the Offices of the Aging in Yonkers and Mount Vernon. We also work with The Wartburg in Mount Vernon for short-term rehab referrals and recommend skilled nursing assistance, independent housing, assisted living, low-income housing, home care, and adult day health care.
What do Gramatan Village volunteers do?
We have a good number of volunteers who assist with non-skilled services. For example, they provide rides to appointments, run to the drug store to get a prescription filled, make phone calls to shut-ins, or take people for a walk. Volunteers have removed air conditioners and given advice on using a computer, an iPad, or an iPhone. They also help in the office and are very important in fundraising. And our volunteers are of all ages. This summer, Kylie Regan, a junior at Bronxville High School, helped us organize outings.
How can volunteers get involved?
People can stop by the office on the second floor at 85 Pondfield or call the office at 914-337-1338. You can also go online to our website at www.gramatanvillage.org.
How can someone join?
The best thing to do is call the office (914-337-1338), where someone is available to describe the services and give you the options for membership. Or go online to learn about Gramatan Village at www.gramatanvilage.org. In addition, every third Thursday of the month, there is a session at the Bronxville Library where members are present to describe the services offered by Gramatan Village and answer any questions.
Gramatan Village serves members who pay dues and are eligible for a full range of services or "special members" who receive a full range of services and are also eligible for reduced membership dues which are subsidized by community support, including a grant from The Community Fund. Membership fees are partially tax deductible. In addition, Gramatan Village serves all residents, free of charge, who wish to attend our informational programs.
Gramatan Village is an IRS-approved 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation. Individuals who wish to contribute to the organization to help support our older adults, in particular, our "special members" whose membership is dependent on donations from the community, will find their donations tax deductible.
Pictured here: Julie Dalton, executive director of Gramatan Village.
Photo by N. Bower