Villages help residents stay independent (DC Edition)
As the saying goes, there’s no place like home. Three out of four adults over 50 want to remain in their homes as they age, according to AARP’s 2018 Home and Community Preferences Survey.
Furthermore, a majority of adults surveyed said they would be interested in joining a so-called “village” — a nonprofit supported by volunteers who provide services that help residents “age in place” rather than having to move from a familiar neighborhood.
Free rides for seniors are the most requested service provided by villages. In the village model, volunteer drivers provide door-to-door service or arrange rides through referrals to county-subsidized transportation.
Volunteers may also perform a variety of tasks, from decluttering, to technology assistance, to grocery shopping, to friendly calls and visits to isolated seniors.
Villages may be structured as concierges (providing referrals to vetted service providers), membership organizations with annual dues and paid staff, or as non-fee, all volunteer organizations.
Beacon Hill, a neighborhood in Boston, is credited with creating the country’s first such village 20 years ago. The idea sprang from a conversation among neighbors in 1999 about their desire “to stay engaged in our own neighborhood in this vibrant city.”
The nonprofit Beacon Hill Village enrolled its first members in 2002. Today, the group has more than 400 members and is a model for many others.
Nationwide, there are nearly 300 villages in 45 states and the District of Columbia, plus an estimated 150 additional ones in development, according to the Village to Village Network, founded in 2010 to foster collaboration among the nation’s villages.
D.C. area has many groups
In 2014, the Washington Post called our area the “epicenter” of the village movement. Since then, the number of operational villages has nearly doubled to 75.
Of these, 18 are in the District, 17 in Virginia, and 40 in Maryland, according to the Washington Area Village Exchange (WAVE), a nonprofit that “encourages the growth and improvement of the village movement within the Washington area.”
Nearly all of Maryland’s villages are located in Montgomery County. As of this month, 27 are operational and 10 are in development, according to Pazit Aviv, the county’s Village Coordinator. The number of villages in Montgomery County has nearly doubled in the past five years.
Part of the reason is that the county has a critical mass of active, experienced volunteers eager to make a difference in their communities.
“Many area seniors are federal retirees, having worked in public policy, public health, leadership development, or nonprofit management,” Aviv said, explaining the growth in the county’s villages. “But it’s also a mindset. Montgomery County people are community oriented.”
Each village is unique to the community it serves.
“Villages come in all shapes and sizes,” Aviv said. “Some charge a membership fee, others provide free services with the help of volunteers. Some focus on social events, others on transportation. Some have paid staff, some are managed solely by volunteers.”
Membership dues vary among the nation’s villages, ranging from under $500 a year for an individual to $1,000 a year for a household. The fees at many villages are on a sliding scale, based on income, and a growing number of villages subsidize low-income members.
Learning from other villages
Shortly after several residents of Olney, Maryland, agreed to form a local village in 2011, they applied for nonprofit status. Barbara Barry, one of the organizers, contacted Bethesda’s Burning Tree Village Board of Directors for assistance.
“Our founding documents are heavily based on theirs. Because of their willingness to help, I was able to adapt them to our village in a few days,” Barry said.
Within a year, Olney Home for Life (OHFL) was incorporated as a Maryland nonprofit, established a board, and enlisted a cadre of volunteers to provide free transportation to senior residents of Olney, Sandy Spring, Ashton, Brookeville and Brinklow.
Its volunteers also transport residents from other parts of the county to MedStar Montgomery Medical Center for cancer treatment. Located in Olney, the hospital, as well as county government, are two of the organization’s largest funders.
In the spirit of collaboration that characterizes senior villages, three D. C. villages — Dupont Circle, Palisades and Northwest Neighbors — partnered several years ago to share the services of a social worker, with funding from the D.C. Department of Aging.
“People are living longer and will require more extensive services,” said Eva Lucero, executive director of Dupont Circle Village (DCV).
To address that need, DCV has since hired its own social worker as well as a registered nurse who serves as a “healthcare navigator” for area seniors.
The positions are supported by the organization’s 250 dues-paying members, corporate and government grants and individual donations. The organization also subsidizes more than 30 low-income members.
“We’ve been proactive in implementing ‘Care Groups,’ which are networks of volunteers who provide a range of services to one person,” Lucero said. The groups often address short-term emergency situations following a hospitalization.
“The human touch given to me by each one of my care group members has been extraordinary beyond words,” said a DCV member who asked to remain anonymous. “The Dupont Circle Village and the way it cares for its members is one of the most extraordinary finds in my 79 years of life.”
On any given day, DCV offers members an array of activities such as docent-led tours of museums, exercise classes and book clubs.
Held in members’ homes, the village’s “CelebSalons” present neighborhood notables in fields such as politics, healthcare and the arts. Most recently, the group hosted radio talk show host Kojo Nnamdi.
“I’m inspired by the talents and wisdom of our members,” Lucero said. “They are ‘shattering the stereotype’ of aging, which is our village’s tag line.”
With more than 500 dues-paying members, Capitol Hill Village (CHV) is the oldest and largest village in the District of Columbia. With two licensed social workers on staff, CHV offers three levels of care, including referrals, short-term and long-term support.
They work closely with a group of multigenerational, trained volunteers in their Village Connections program, under Katie Garber, director of volunteer and care services.
“There’s a shortage of care workers,” said Garber. “It’s hard for agencies to place them in the District if it requires commuting into the city for a four-hour shift. Our Advocacy Corps is working on the issue of affordable housing for care workers as well as for seniors because the two issues are connected.”
More than half of Virginia’s villages are in Fairfax County. In 2014, the county issued its 50+ Community Action Plan, with many recommendations that support such villages.
These include the Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) model for establishing a volunteer-based senior village, and the creation of a ride scheduler system that organizations can use to match riders with drivers. Launched in 2016, Northern Virginia Rides (NV Rides) is being used by many of the county’s villages.
Reston for a Lifetime adopted the county’s N2N program in 2016, and developed RCC Rides in association with NV Rides. Like many senior villages, Reston for a Lifetime is partnering with one of the area’s homeowner associations (Reston Association) to encourage more neighborhoods to establish villages.
Some villages have begun to adopt an older concept called a “time bank.” Under this arrangement, the village keeps track of how many hours residents volunteer to help their neighbors. In return, they qualify to receive help from other residents for the same amount of time if and when needed in the future.
In Maryland, volunteers at the Silver Spring Time Bank give rides to the airport, help with taxes and even assist with car-buying research.
In Fairfax County, the Reston Useful Services Exchange (USE) operates in the same way, according to Patricia Rohrer, the county’s Long-term Care Program Developer and Village Liaison.
“USE is unique in that it’s the most intergenerational of the Fairfax County villages and also the only ‘time-bank’ variety,” Rohrer said. “When you volunteer to give a service to someone, you bank the hours and can get any volunteer service back in exchange.”
Anyone can establish a village if there’s enough interest. Local governments can provide guidance to residents wishing to form villages. But ultimately, it’s a grassroots movement.
“Look around [your] neighborhood and see if there are some older folks that might be in need of something,” Rohrer said. “Then begin to have the conversation with others about trying to address those needs.”
District of Columbia
- Capitol Hill Village, www.capitolhillvillage.org
- Cleveland Park Village, www.clevelandparkVillage,.org
- Dupont Circle Village, www.dupontcircleVillage.org
- East Rock Creek Village, in development, email@example.com
- Far SE Senior Village, in development, firstname.lastname@example.org@gmail.com
- Foggy Bottom West End Village, in development, www.fbweVillage,.org,
- Georgetown Village, www.georgetown-Village.org
- Glover Park Village, www.gloverparkVillage.org
- Northwest Neighbors Village,www.nwnv.org
- Palisades Village, www.palisadesVillage.org
- Pennsylvania Avenue Village East, www.paVillageeast.org
- SW Waterfront Village, in development, email@example.com
- Ward 7 Deanwood Village, in development, Terrie@instepseniors.org
- Ward 7 ERFSC KEEN Seniors Program, in development, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bannockburn Neighbors Assisting Neighbors, www.bannockburncommunity.org
- Bethesda Metro Area Village, in development, BMAVillage@gmail.com
- Broadmoor-Huntington Terrace Village, in development, email@example.com
- Burning Tree Village, www.burningtreeVillage.org
- Cheverly, in development, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Chevy Chase at Home, www.chevychaseathome.org
- Hyattsville Aging in Place, www.hyattsvilleaginginplace.org
- Little Falls Village, www.littlefallsVillage.org
- Maplewood Village, in development, email@example.com
- Mill Creek Village, http://millcreekvillage.wordpress.com
- Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) Cabin John, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Olney Home for Life, www.olneyhomeforlife.org
- Potomac Community Village, www.potomaccommunityvillage.org
- Rt. 1 Corridor Village, in development, email@example.com
- Silver Spring Village, www.silverspringVillage.org
- Takoma Park Planners, in development, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Town of Garrett Park Seniors Committee, www.garrettpark-md.gov/c/411
- Wyngate Neighbors Helping Neighbors (WNHN), in development, email@example.comGmsreads@yahoo.com
- Arlington Villages Project, www.arlnvil.org
- At Home in Alexandria, www.athomeinalexandria.org
- Braddock District Council Aging in Place Program, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Herndon Village Network, email@example.com
- Lake Barcroft Village, www.lakebarcroftVillage.org
- McLean: A Community for All Ages, mcva.weebly.com
- Mosby Woods Village, mosbywoodsVillage@gmail.com
- Mount Vernon at Home, www.mountvernonathome.org
- Reston for a Lifetime, www.restonforalifetime.org
- Reston Useful Services Exchange, www.restonuse.org
- Vertical Village at Wildwood,firstname.lastname@example.org
- 22202 Neighbors United,www.arcaonline.org/current-arca-projects/arlington-villages
- Washington Area Village Exchange, www.WAVEvillages.org
- Village to Village Network, www.vtvnetwork.org
Source: Washington Area Village Exchange