Los Altos boasts a strong community of retired seniors, and one local advocate aims to put them to work.
Karen Duncan, a Los Altos resident and retiree herself, has created a project that encourages older adults to contribute their skills and wisdom by volunteering to study issues deemed important to Los Altos – from library fees to Bullis Charter School – in hopes of resolving them.
Dubbed the PrimeTime Project, Duncan proposed the pilot program to the Los Altos Community Foundation in 2010. The foundation supported the project – assisting with reports and its website – which has now grown to 10 members.
Roy Lave, executive director of the foundation, said Duncan is the ideal leader for PrimeTime. Duncan spent her career in the health industry and in retirement works as a patient advocate focusing on quality-of-care reform for seniors.
“Karen is a great lady who knows a lot and has done analysis in her professional career,” Lave said. “She brought expertise to the project with the ability to analyze and write.”
Duncan, director of the project, hopes her knowledge can benefit the community through problem solving. She urges other residents to do the same by joining PrimeTime.
“We are looking for people who have a professional background that is of value to the issue we are studying at the time,” she said.
Ideal candidates include those who are healthy, active, open-minded, willing to set aside value judgments and know how to navigate the Internet.
While PrimeTime originally intended to leverage the life experiences of seniors, the program is now open to all age groups.
“We have loosened that requirement,” Duncan said. “Before, (the senior community) was an underutilized demographic in the community. We are looking for professional people that have the time and the interest and care passionately about the community and how it works.”
Duncan said she understands that even the greatest minds may not find solutions for the community’s most complex problems, but project members strive to provide the facts without using opinion, hyperbole, fear mongering and untruths.
“We are looking and analyzing factual information for the community,” she said. “We are defining problems and shedding light on them.”
Duncan added that she uses five criteria to determine whether PrimeTime will study an issue: It must be important, timely, controversial, have potential for high impact and amenable to fact finding.
Members published their first study, “Los Altos Informs: Implications of Library Operation,” online earlier this month. (To view the report, visit losaltoscf.org/LosAltosInformsLibraryOperation.) The analysis addresses the Santa Clara County Library District’s $80 fee for nonresidents who use the Los Altos Library. The study weighs library costs if it were city-operated instead of district-run. PrimeTime volunteers researched the pros and cons of the issue – including financial ramifications and impact on the community – allowing residents to draw their own conclusions.
Duncan said they next plan to tackle the issue of Bullis Charter School and its legal battle over facilities with the Los Altos School District.
Prospective PrimeTime members must attend “Joe Friday Training Day” – named after the “just-the-facts” police detective from the classic TV show “Dragnet” – to learn how to frame an issue, select resources, analyze information and present findings.
For more information, visit losaltoscf.org/primetime.