Aging in place – it takes a village

BY BRANDIE PETERSON

The saying “it takes a village” refers to raising children through a collective effort. However, this is a village of senior adults living in active communities and “aging in place” in their own homes.

East Rock Creek Village will be a community of people aged 50 and above taking part in shared experiences and contributing to each other’s well being.

A board of directors is forming and will run the virtual village. All board members are seniors living within the community who have been active over the years in the neighborhood. There will be one salaried employee to run the organization as Executive Director.

“My neighborhood is older, I mean the people here are older. So we have to look out for each other,” said 78-year-old East Rock Creek Village member Laura Vault.

Maija Hay, Julia Maxwell, Faye and Jean Bennett 063013 NI Open House

Maija Hay, Julia Maxwell, an unidentified guest and Jean Bennett at the village’s 2013 Open House.  Loretta Neumann Smith

DC leads the nation

The District of Columbia region has more villages than any other part of the nation. There are 14 total villages; eight are fully operational with others in developmental stages.

The village concept began 12 years ago with the first “aging in place” community Beacon Hill in Boston, Massachusetts.

East Rock Creek Village is one of DC’s developing communities. It includes these seven neighborhoods within the northern section Ward 4; Colonial Villages, North Portal Estates, Shepherd Park, Takoma, Manor Park, Brightwood, and Crestwood.

Jean Bennett 102512 NI Open House

Jean Bennett at the village’s 2013 Open House.  Loretta Neumann Smith.

Home alone

Villager’s requests and needs are met by a team committed to helping seniors live independent lives in the homes they love and cherish.

“There are a tremendous number of people who live alone,” said Carroll Green, vice president and founding member of the ERCV board.

These volunteers offer an important component to village life by contributing supportive services to those in the community. Donated services include automotive transportation, meal preparation, changing light bulbs, computer lessons, and lawn mowing and yard services.

“You really would like to have people to contact for things that you no longer do, or can’t do,” said Vault.

Photo of March 2014 ERCV Board Meeting

Seated from left to right: ERCV vice-president Carroll Green, at-large director Paula Blair, at-large director, Gloria Sulton, president and board chair Shannon Cockett, at-large director Abe Hussein, treasurer Marjorie Odle and secretary Susan Learmonth. Photo by Kathy Hussein. 

Transportation key

The most important service offered by village volunteers is transportation.

Volunteers will pick members up at their homes, drive them to their desired location, wait for them to complete their task, and drive the member back home.

Transportation service would be helpful for outings such as a doctor appointment, prescription errand, or grocery shopping. A volunteer would even help with putting groceries away after a shopping trip.

Volunteers for the village must be fully vetted, and undergo background investigations.

“I often say that neighbors keep me motivated to be physically active. Looking at some of them, they’ve pretty much retired to the rocking chair, and that is sad,” said Green.

Dr. John Thompson, DCOA Ex Director, 102512 NI Open House

John Thompson, head of the DC Office on Aging at the initial 2012 meeting. photograph by Loretta Neumann Smith.

Pledges sought

While in development the community is increasing participation by soliciting pledges. An individual pledge cost $500 for an annual membership, and a household pledge (two or more members) is $700 for one year.

ERCV is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. To date they have signed up 65 volunteers, and 60 pledge members. ERCV hopes to open their doors in early 2015.