Art of Aging: Penn's Village

CENTER CITY (WPVI) -- When Joan Dill, of Center City Philadelphia, had trouble making her medical appointments, her doctor suggested she join Penn's Village, where she was partnered with two health pals.

"They're really good," said Dill. "They take me to all my appointments. It's the difference between living and dying, really."

Penn's Village is the Philadelphia chapter of the national Village to Village Network - neighbors helping neighbors with the goal of enabling seniors to age in their own homes.

"People want to be active, they want to help each other," said Penn's Village Executive Director Jane Eleey. "They want to learn new things."

The group holds educational workshops every month on everything from navigating Medicare to understanding smart phones and social media. And it's almost entirely volunteer-run.

"I've driven people to doctors, to the supermarket," said volunteer Ruth Ferber. "I cleaned one lady's closet for her."

And there is a give-and-take. Marcia Kravis joined Penn's Village for help after spinal surgery. Now that she's healed, she's part of the programming committee.

"My main contribution in that department was to present a concert in my house," said Kravis. "I'm a musician. I'm a harpsichordist."

"We learn together, we discover together, we enjoy each other," said Penn's Village Board Secretary Janet Burnham.

And for many of the volunteers, it's like a second career, a way to put their professional expertise to work in their post-retirement years.

"I wanted to be able to use my brain and use the skills I had learned as a social worker," said Volunteer Coordinator Eileen Glass.

"I feel like I'm a relatively important cog in the wheel," said board member David Lewis, "and that's important to me."

"This has become an international movement that is redefining aging," said Eleey.

Penn's Village is located in Center City, Philadelphia.

There are other villages in the area and hundreds more nationwide.

For more information on programs for seniors, visit our Art of Aging section.
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