REAL stands for Resources for Ageless Living and it is a program administered by Community Senior Services of Claremont. The member- driven program involves those 50 years old and older who need assistance with daily living. Its tag line is "Real Life. Real Choice."
The program launched last July and already has proven popular and successful, but there's always room for more members and volunteers.
"The program is more of a community than it is a program. As people age, there is a need to be connected to each other and this program allows them to connect with other like-minded seniors that want to age in place, as well as it keeps them connected to the larger community that they live in as a whole," said Brandi Orton, members services director for the program.
With REAL Connections, neighbors are helping neighbors by providing transportation to the grocery store or to doctors' appointments. But it also allows for relationships and friendships to be built.
"Members help each other out, as well as non-member volunteers who provide support to the REAL Connections members. Each connection expands and broadens their world by growing friendships, volunteerism and service to each other. Knowing that no matter what happens to a member they are connected to a larger group that can support them provides peace of mind and also encourages the idea of taking care of each other," Orton said.
Joan Guyon of Upland called REAL Connections a "Godsend" for her.
"I've always been active all my life. Age is catching up with me, but I want to keep going. I'm blind in one eye and have glaucoma so I had to give up driving my car. My husband died, but I was looking for a way to keep moving. This really helps," Guyon said.
Members pay a monthly fee, which comes out to about $54.50 for one person or $75 for a household. That entitles them to a set number of volunteer drivers assigned to them each month. But REAL Connections isn't all about transportation. Members are invited to participate in dinners at each other's homes, coffee klatches, potlucks and even poker games.
Guyon, a fabric artist, has enjoyed lectures at Claremont McKenna College and visits to art museums.
"I have a daughter who lives in Loma Linda and she comes out every other week to shop for me, but I don't have any close family around here and most of my friends work so having volunteer drivers help me is working out beautifully," she said.
Bruce Thomson of La Verne is a member, too. Although he still drives, he said he welcomes the help.
"The program provides affordable transportation, but for me it's the personable care that I get. We live in such a working environment these days. No one retires. The program is great about giving you a chance to meet other people in your community," Thomson said. "Subscribing to this program is cheaper than filling up your own gas tank. I would highly recommend it."
REAL Connections serves individuals who are 50 years old and older. It operates with volunteers and presently is available in Claremont, La Verne, San Dimas, parts of Pomona, Rancho Cucamonga, San Antonio Heights and Upland.
It is designed also to provide information and resource referrals. For more information, call 909-621-6300.