It’s not a feature or benefit that Ashby Village, a non-profit organization, describes as one of the services it provides. But along with having a trained network of volunteers who drive older adults to appointments, help declutter their homes, provide social activities and stimulating events, it appears that matchmaking is at least an unexpected option.
Joan Cole, now 90 years old, is an active member of Ashby Village, which helps older adults stay in their homes and communities and thrive. A retired psychologist and social worker, she’s been involved since the Village was launched ten years ago, first heading the effort to recruit new members and volunteers and now serving as the liaison between the Village’s Program Leadership Team and the Board. Martin Paley, about to turn 90, is a donor and a vital force in the organization’s fundraising activities, serving on its Development Committee. When they separately attended a Donor Appreciation reception five years ago, neither was looking for romance.
“I had no idea of coupling,” says Cole. “I was doing fine – it wasn’t on the radar screen.” Her husband of 28 years had recently died, as had Paley’s wife of 55 years. Before the Donor Appreciation formalities actually began, the two sat down to chat. “We talked and talked— a lot about being widowed.” Even though Cole wasn’t thinking romance, she says, “Out of my mouth came ‘would you like to go to the movies?'" Cole, who taught social welfare at UC Berkeley, admits, “I think I was hitting on him.”
Paley, a long-time Bay Area civic leader and former Director of the San Francisco Foundation, says with a smile when he remembers that meeting. “Going to the movies isn’t the best way to get to know someone.” Instead, he asked her to dinner. Quickly, they discovered a lot of overlapping interests, people and activities. “It’s endless— there’s no end to conversation,” he says. She points out it’s an “antidote” to isolation, something Ashby Village is dedicated to addressing among its members by sponsoring interest groups, events and lectures.
From a subsequent dinner at Cole’s house, to telling her best friend, they soon began to introduce each other as “my partner.” Their families and friends provide another dimension to the richness of their relationship. Even though they have a joint calendar and are completely “coupled” in their social life, they don’t live together—he lives in Berkeley and she in Oakland. “We’ve developed a rhythm, it’s forever changing,” Cole says.
Paley finds the relationship is satisfying on three levels: emotional, intellectual and physical. And Cole says, “It just proves it’s not over till it’s over.”
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Ashby Village serves residents of seven cities: Berkeley, Albany, Kensington, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Richmond and parts of Oakland. To learn more about Ashby Village visit www.ashbyvillage.org or call 510-204-9200 # # #