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tobey klein, growing older with confidence

Story by  Charli Depner


Among the greatest challenges of growing older is staying connected to community relationships and support.  The story of the Emery Bunch, in the vanguard of Ashby Village’s neighborhood groups, illustrates the possibilities for sustained engagement with community.

“One reason neighborhood groups are working so well is that they really help us to get to know people in our own neighborhoods,” says Tobey Klein, who started the Emery Bunch neighborhood group with other founding members about five years ago, “This helps people stay in their community as long as possible.”

Tobey had heard of Boston’s Beacon Hill Village before she moved from New York to the Bay Area.  When the Village Movement was just getting started, Tobey attended one of the initial planning and information sessions of the San Francisco Village and helped out with recruitment and activities.  In 2005, when Tobey moved to Emeryville’s Watergate community, she contacted Shirley Haberfeld, an Ashby Village founder.  “Sight unseen, she asked me to take over Activities for the newly formed Ashby Village.” Tobey recalls,  “A year later Shirley thought we could probably have our own little chapter here at Watergate. She said there was a young man, Sam Foushee, who had the same idea.  We met and decided we were very cohesive in terms of what needed to be done.”   Tobey took charge of all activities and Sam worked on operational aspects.  They signed on 19 members and all joined at one time.  Then they expanded to all of Emeryville.  “It was a tremendous learning experience. No one had done this before…but it worked!”

“We take advantage of the local amenities,” Tobey explained.  “We do water aerobics at the Watergate swimming pool and have our Happy Hour at Trader Vic’s.  No one has to drive; we all walk together.  The group meets monthly for coffee and conversation and Tobey arranges for a speaker.  She has also organized a long-running nonfiction book club. “We read challenging books, on topics such as cyber warfare and dark money.   The discussions are very rich.”  Tobey also attends the neighborhood groups’ steering committee, “We are still spreading out and trying out new ideas,” she pointed out, mentioning a recent play performance.  

Although Tobey has been deeply engaged as a member volunteer since the early days of Ashby Village, it was only a few months ago when she used services for the first time.  Recovery from a broken kneecap meant that she needed transportation to physical therapy.  “It was only two blocks away; but I could not walk or drive there.  I felt embarrassed to say that I needed a ride for two blocks; but the volunteers couldn’t have been nicer.  It is nice to know that this works extremely well.”

On her 88th birthday, Tobey decided it was time to begin some succession planning. “Every good business has a succession plan,” she explained. “We identified five people to cover activities.  I am still very much involved.” In addition, she keeps up a busy schedule, including visits to family in Amsterdam and New York.  For the most recent trip to New York she traveled cross-country by train. “I had not taken the train for many, many years, when I traveled with my husband.”

Tobey says that she is proud to be part of what Ashby Village has accomplished.  “It gives people a lot of confidence to know that if they need help, a ride, groceries there will be someone there for them. In today’s world, where so many people want to continue to live in their homes and communities, villages are a wonderful benefit for all.  The best thing is that Ashby Village continues to grow and develop new ideas in many directions. It is very rewarding.”