Villages, where neighbors help neighbors, are making it easier for people to age in place in their own homes and communities. Senior villages are expanding rapidly, and Montgomery County has become the first locality in the Washington, D.C.-metropolitan area to hire a “villages coordinator.”
Bringing training from Israel and her own savvy, Pazit Aviv, the new villages coordinator, is helping existing and emerging villages do their work. Today, 15 villages are operating in the Maryland suburbs and nearly a dozen more are in the process of developing.
“I am working to connect people with the solutions they need,” she said. She keeps in close contact with existing initiatives to be as helpful to them as possible, and she is also reaching out to communities interested in starting villages.
“I’m also reaching out to faith-based communities, including churches and synagogues seeking ways to help their aging congregants,” she said.
In meetings with village leaders and planners, Aviv talks about flexibility and finding alternatives to traditional village models to suit particular communities.
“Every village has to make its own decision about what to do based on the nature of each community and assessments of need, whether it is for some level of support in the home or transportation or something else,” she said.
She discusses ways to get a conversation going in a community, how to reach out to neighbors, what resources are available and what others are doing. She also explains how to incorporate a village as a nonprofit entity if needed and addresses liability issues.
“Resources are available,” she said, citing “The Village Blueprint” booklet, Village-to-Village Network national organization and website, and Washington Area Villages Exchange (WAVE) website. “The Village Blueprint” is available at Montgomery County libraries and senior resource line at 240-777-3000.
Aviv welcomes inquiries and is available to attend and speak to community meetings. “I try to connect people with experts and find a place where they can get answers to their questions.”
Odile Brunetto, director of the Montgomery County Area Agency on Aging, describes Aviv as “an energetic and creative professional.” Aviv previously worked for the county’s Housing Opportunity Commission, serving older residents from diverse backgrounds and developing partnerships with provider agencies. She has also been a social worker at Jewish Family and Children Services in Waltham, Mass.
From Nazareth Ilit, Israel, she came to the United States in 2001 with her husband, Eyal Aviv. They now live in Takoma Park with their two children.
Aviv holds bachelor’s degrees in East Asian studies and communications and also in social work from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. She received her master’s degree in social work, with a focus on aging and end of life issues, from Salem State University, Massachusetts. She is working on a Certificate in Nonprofit Management at George Washington University.
Judith Welles, a local writer, formerly chaired the Montgomery County Commission on Aging.