Aging in Place in Darien and Gallivant have recently joined forces and are in the process of becoming a single nonprofit organization.

The Gallivant was launched by enthusiastic Darien residents who wanted to provide more transportation for seniors. In 1984, they purchased a 12-passenger van with generous donations from private citizens, community organizations and a cooperative agreement with the Town of Darien. The Gallivant operates on weekdays and will bring Darien residents age 60 and older to any destination within Darien, Norwalk, New Canaan and Stamford.

Aging in Place was launched in 2006 by members of the Human Services Planning Council (part of The Community Fund of Darien). They assembled an advisory board comprised of community members and social service leaders. The initial board conducted focus groups, researched similar aging-in-place organizations and brought together service providers at a Senior Summit to explore how to best achieve the goal of enabling Darien seniors to live independently at home.

"It became clear that our older residents desired and deserved such a program and that we could foster the enthusiasm to make it a reality," Kiki Karpen, executive director of the Community Fund of Darien said.

A coordinator was hired in 2007 with funding from The Community Fund of Darien and the program began providing free telephone information and referral services, vetted service providers such as handymen, electricians and plumbers and a free newsletter for residents age 60 and older in Darien.

"Over the past three years, Aging in Place and Gallivant have worked closely together to improve transportation and other services for the older adult population in Darien. Our respective boards agreed that becoming one entity made a lot of sense," Kaye Barker, Aging in Place and Gallivant board president, said.

"Together we will build upon 27 years of Gallivant history of providing affordable transportation services while capitalizing on the information and referral services provided by Aging in Place," said Ernie Steiner, Aging in Place and Gallivant board member.

The new organization will provide to all Darien seniors:

Handicap accessible transportation within Darien, Stamford, Norwalk, and New Canaan.

Free telephone referral, advice and counsel to seniors within 24 hours on weekdays.

Discounted vetted services, such as electricians, plumbers, handyman and chore services.

Volunteer leaf raking, snow shoveling, visitors and shopping assistance.

Biannual Out and About newsletter.

Monthly email blasts promoting events and services of interest to seniors.

Social and educational programs throughout the community.

Aging in Place + Gallivant has served over 700 Darien seniors during the past three years and testimonial to the program's success is abundant.

"All of a sudden I felt my freedom come back. I can't tell you what the Gallivant did for my morale," said Hank Strauss, whose eyesight declined to the point where he could no longer drive.

"I am so happy Aging in Place is here to help me. I don't have any family in the area and it's nice to know that I can consult with Aging in Place," said Elsie Berl, who called for a handyman and electrician.

Aging in Place + Gallivant is conducting its annual fundraising appeal.

"Since rider donations provide only a small portion of the organization's revenues, Aging in Place + Gallivant will depend on the generosity of Darien residents for its operations. We are confident residents will support this worthy endeavor," Barker said.

Send donations to Aging in Place + Gallivant, P.O. Box 1242, Darien, CT 06820.

Call Aging in Place at 203-585-4094 for information and referral to senior programs and services. To ride on the Gallivant, call 203-655-2227; 24-hour advance notice and a voluntary contribution are appreciated.

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