Above: 73-year-old Long Beach resident Rondi Colson moved from Sacramento to Long Beach when she joined the Long Beach Time Exchange to meet new people. “[I] just wanted to meet like-minded people… I hate being alone,” she says. Photo by Alvin Engo.
The 2008 financial crisis left a bitter scar on U.S. families, traumatizing those who lost their homes and tearing public trust from the traditional market. Simultaneously, communities in Long Beach started the search for an alternative means of cash.
One answer came in 2010.
For almost a decade since then, the Long Beach Time Exchange (LBTE) has served the people of Long Beach through services that require no payments — a system that exchanges time instead of money.
“It was made at the right time. People wanted help and support during the housing crisis and during the 2008 recession,” says Christine Petit, a LBTE co-founder.
There, members earn time credits by giving an hour of work, or service, to another person or group. They then can use those time credits to receive different services, listed on the members’ online database.
Some have offered personal massages, while others give help with group ukulele lessons, lifting furniture, house repairs, and ridesharing. Some even earn credits by speaking up at City Hall meetings for various city measures.
“Everyone’s hour is equal so that’s the cool thing and what separates us from bartering,” says Micaela “Micky” Salatino, the nonprofit’s project director. “Time banking gives people an alternative to money, valuing many skills that are often devalued by the market economy.”
While originating as an economic solution to a dire situation, members say they find a priceless perk in the experience, which helps sow friendly-knit bonds in a city where neighbors don’t always talk to each other.
“It’s a social network and a good way to connect with a community that cares,” says Derald Tucker, a 49-year-old member of the LTBE. He has given rides, cleaned fridges and more while connecting with folks that he wouldn’t otherwise meet normally, through LBTE.
“With the time exchanges, it’s not so much the transaction, but the excuse to build friendships,” he adds.
There’s no office space or headquarters for it. LBTE has over 300 regular members, with over a thousand registered, who are largely self-organized and meet informally, not counting the group’s official cooking and gardening workshops and occasional social gatherings. And yet finding such social circles has become more pertinent given current trends.
As more Americans age alone, Baby Boomers have become “the loneliest generation” in U.S. history, based on a summary of research reported by The Wall Street Journal. The trend is tied to growing health risks such as depression, dementia and medicinal mismanagement, with the next generation of youth on track to face the same isolation problem.
“I believe through connecting, a lot blossoms and it’s all about relationships,” says Salatino, citing social networking as one of the program’s five core values. Other timeshare programs across the globe seem to think so, too.
Above: Long Beach Time Exchange project director Micaela Salatino smiles for a portrait. Photo by Alvin Engo.
Elderly residents in south London saw their depression and isolation reduced after using time banking services due to being around others and learning new skills, one study by the New Economic Foundation shows.
There, a doctor started a patient-led time bank, seeing it as an innovative way to promote well-being, social inclusion and social networks locally.
“The time bank took me out from being in my home and enabled me to go out and meet other people, attend training courses and meet people who are genuinely in need and appreciate the support I can give also,” states one member, as quoted the study.
Through social engagement, many members felt improved relief and mental health. Although methods of time banking differ by region, cultures, age or religion, the health and social benefits tend to stick, researchers argue.
“[I] just wanted to meet like-minded people… I hate being alone,” says 73-year-old Long Beach resident Rondi Colson. “I called this college student from Long Beach that offered [home] ukulele lessons. She came to my apartment and we [later] became good friends.”
Colson lives in Belmont Shore and has been a member of the LBTE for about six years. She moved to Long Beach from Sacramento with her daughter. Moving was a big leap considering her age: It made it hard to find new friends.
She met Salatino and later started using the time bank as a way to form new relationships and learn all about Long Beach’s diverse culture of people. Not until she stumbled into the Time Exchange did she begin connecting with younger people than her or those with a common interest.
“It’s the little things. That’s what matters. Just having people that welcome you,” says Colson. “Time exchange is a big part of my life.”