Imagine a senior named Elda. She is seventy-eight and lives alone. Her health is fair, but she has arthritis and hasn’t been able to clean her house’s roof in years. That’s always been something she paid for. But when roof cleaning time came again this year, she didn’t pay at all, at least not with money. Elda recently became a member of a local time-bank.
What Is a Time-Bank?
A time-bank is a community of people who have agreed to trade each other their services, or their time. In a time-bank, time itself is currency, and no one person’s time is deemed to be more valuable than another’s. Elda’s time is regarded the same as a young man’s. Similarly, an uneducated person’s services are judged to be equal to the services of a PhD. Services are traded on an hour for hour basis. In some ways, time-banks are an embodiment of the tired, nineteenth-century political slogan: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” But there is nothing passé about time-banks themselves.
The Principles of Time-Banking
Time-banks are sprouting up in cities across America. Some already have over a thousand members. They are founded on the belief that we all have something to give. TimeBanks.org lists the five core principle of time-banking on their website:
- Everyone is an asset
- Some work is beyond a monetary price
- Reciprocity in helping
- Social networks are necessary
- A respect for all human beings
Dignity for the Elderly and Disabled
Time-banks promote the dignity of seniors and disabled people by allowing them to not only receive services, but to contribute them. So while Elda can’t clean her roof anymore, she can help in classes at the local community center. By getting involved in a time bank, Elda not only receives help with household chores at no charge, she gets the warm, rewarding feeling of contributing to and strengthening her local community.
Of course Elda is only hypothetical, but time-banking is very real. To find a time-bank in your area, view the directory of time-banks maintained by TimeBanks.org.