For Petaluma’s Greenblatts, it takes a Village

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Anne Greenblatt knows the struggles of caring for loved ones into old age.

She and her husband, Paul Greenblatt, moved Paul’s father into their home, where he became more isolated as he grew older. Her own parents, living alone on the east coast, also became difficult to take care of due to the distance.

“It was a challenge,” she said. “I saw my own parents face isolation. I felt like there is a way to do this differently.”

An article in AARP magazine about the Village movement caught Anne’s attention. It was 2011, and she had she had recently retired from a career as a counselor at Stanford and Sonoma State University.

Started in Boston, the Village Network is a nationwide movement that aims to revolutionize the experience of aging by offering support services and social connections to improve quality of life and expand choices. Anne attended the Village conference in the Bay Area.

“I felt like I didn’t choose it, it chose me,” she said. “I came back with my hair on fire.”

With the help of her husband, who had retired from a career in the tech industry, the Greenblatts launched Sonoma County’s first Village Network in Petaluma in 2014.

Members, ages 50 and older, pay a monthly fee and have access to the Village’s extensive network of volunteers, who provide companionship, help with doctor visits and offer rides. Today, the organization has grown to 110 members and 90 volunteers serving Petaluma and Penngrove.

“We’re a support network for adults,” said Anne Greenblatt, 76. “One of our biggest issues is avoiding isolation.”

For their work in the community, Anne and Paul Greenblatt have been chosen to receive the 2019 Service to Seniors award at the Petaluma Community Awards of Excellence, April 18 at Rooster Run Event Center.

In nominating the Greenblatts for the award, Elaine Stevick wrote: “Through the work and creative approach to solutions for seniors, Paul and Anne have provided a means for seniors in Petaluma to become active participants in the Petaluma community.”

The Greenblatts, who moved to Petaluma seven years ago, raised four children and have four grandchildren. They are active in the Unitarian Universalist church and enjoy traveling. But their main passion is helping older adults deal with the aging process.

“It’s a whole new career for me,” Anne Greenblatt said. “It’s exciting.”

Volunteers take members out for coffee or on walks or they sit and play Scrabble. They help older adults avoid scams, which is a growing problem, Anne said.

“They do minor home repairs,” she said. “And there is help with computers, a lot of computer help.”

(Contact Matt Brown at matt.brown@arguscourier.com.)

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