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Susan Epstein Tapped to Lead New Santa Barbara Village

Community-wide collaborative is aimed at helping senior citizens remain in their homes with essential services

Santa Barbara Village has announced that community leader Susan Epstein will serve as its first director. SBV is a community-wide initiative to enable a growing and diverse group of area residents to live their lives to their fullest in their homes as they age. A collaborative of local organizations, including Center for Successful Aging, United Way of Santa Barbara County, Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara and AARP Santa Barbara, are working together to plan Santa Barbara Village.

Susan Epstein
Susan Epstein

Santa Barbara Village will provide coordination of services and support needed to make home living a comfortable alternative to moving to retirement or assisted-living facilities. Santa Barbara Village recently secured a start-up grant from the Archstone Foundation and ran an extensive search process for the director position. In addition to the Archstone Foundation start-up grant, the ongoing costs of the village will be provided by a combination of sliding scale membership fees, fundraising and volunteer services.

A management consultant to nonprofits for more than 15 years, Epstein’s past consulting projects have guided agencies in the areas of management, technology, marketing, diversity and communications.  She has served on the Goleta Union School District Board of Trustees for the past six years and was interim executive director of the Nonprofit Support Center in 2008.

A native of Southern California, Epstein graduated from Stanford University, where she studied computer science, and then graduated from the University of Chicago Law School. In addition to being a member of the California Bar, her technology expertise will be instrumental in developing Santa Barbara Village’s “virtual senior living community.”

“Susan’s background in law, and the development and administration of nonprofit organizations, serve as a fine platform for this position,” said search committee member Joni Meisel. “Her energy and passion for this idea will help us convert Santa Barbara Village from concept to reality.”

Santa Barbara Village is based on an already established program in Boston and on programs cropping up across the country. Santa Barbara Village will offer a network of high-quality resources, services, programs and activities that revolve around daily living. With the growth of the aging baby-boomer population and the overextension of facilities and the medical system, this model is a viable alternative.

“This innovative model of a virtual senior living community has been effective in other cities at meeting the complex needs of senior citizens and their families, especially in light of the recent economic downturn that has had catastrophic impact on the lives of older adults,” Epstein said. “I look forward to working with the many providers in town to coordinate quality services for seniors who wish to remain in their homes as long as possible.”

Santa Barbara Village will help seniors to live comfortably in their homes and also be a part of the greater community. Services offered to SBV members may include social events as well as delivering meals, arranging transportation, and bringing other specialized professions, such as computer and home repair straight, to seniors’ homes.

“All Village member services will be vetted and members will be asked to provide evaluation of the services as they receive them,” Epstein said. “This will ensure our services are all of high quality.”

California currently has the largest older adult population in the country, and in Santa Barbara County it represents 15 percent of the population. A recent United Way study found that the No. 1 desire of older adults in Santa Barbara is to be able to remain living in their homes and communities.

“Santa Barbara Village’s goal is for people to stay in their homes longer but not necessarily forever,” said Dr. Beverly Schydlowsky, clinical director of the Center for Successful Aging, and one of the visionaries behind Santa Barbara Village. “Some of these people may have to eventually go to a facility but it does lengthen the stay and quality of their life while living in their own home.”

“When the Santa Barbara Village is ready for members to enroll, there will be extensive outreach to neighborhoods and senior service providers so individuals and families who most need these services are informed,” Epstein added.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the coming years, how, exactly I’ll be impacted, but I know I’m going to need help,” admitted Gretta Rushback, a potential SBV member. “The concept of Santa Barbara Village gives me hope for the future, and a feeling that we’re all in this together.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara is the lead fiscal agent for the collaborative. Membership in Santa Barbara Village is nondenominational and open to all.

The Archstone Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation, whose mission is to prepare society for the growing needs of an aging society.

Click here for more information on Santa Barbara Village.

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