Kemp Mill considers senior village

Kemp Mill residents turned out Sunday to hear about the progress of a local village, which would help seniors age in place. (Photo by Hannah Monicken)

Herm and Ros Efron have lived in Silver Spring’s Kemp Mill neighborhood for 50 years. As they age, they’d like to stay in their home, near their friends and synagogue. “People prefer living in their own homes and with their own community,” Ros said.

People are living longer nowadays and most want to age at home. But most communities aren’t built for aging in place — they may lack sidewalks or access to transportation.

A growing trend for allowing seniors to live in their homes longer is the village. Less a physical place, a village is a group of neighbors who help older residents with small tasks. Montgomery County has about 20 villages and there are 50 in the region.

On Sunday, 100 people came to Kemp Mill Elementary School to hear about the planned Village in Kemp Mill, which would serve seniors and those with disabilities, with the aim of encouraging Kemp Mill residents to participate as members and volunteers.

According to census data, the Kemp Mill area includes about 4,000 households. Of those, more than a third (1,646) include one or more people older than 60. And the number of people reaching 100 is expected to go up 750 percent in the next 45 years.

“Villages tap into two seemingly contradictory values in people’s lives,” Pazit Aviv of Montgomery County Aging and Disability Services told the audience. “The first value is self-determination. The second value is community and

In other words, people want to be independent, but not alone.

A village is a network of members and volunteers that offers small services like rides, household tasks and check-ins. (Photo by harlandspinksphoto/flickr)

An exploratory committee began meeting in October and a board of directors to run the village formed last week, according to board president Alan Breitler. On May 30, the board sent articles of incorporation as a nonprofit to the state of Maryland, although he village won’t begin operating for about a year.

About 120 people have returned a survey sent out by the board to gauge which of 33 listed services those in the community would like to be available, he said.

Board member Stuart Rosenthal said about half of those who answered the survey were also interested in volunteering.

To explain how a village operates, Donna Savage, board president of the Villages of Kensington, described her community, which began accepting members in 2016.

It has 63 full members and charges $250 for an individual and $350 for a couple annually. The Villages of Kensington’s services include rides, small household tasks, yard work, occasional meals, running errands, picking up groceries, friendly visits and computer help.

Savage said they partner with other organizations that provide services to refer members if the village can’t help with a particular issue — the Jewish Council for the Aging, senior homes, businesses, government agencies and civic associations.

Savage said they were surprised that realtors were interested in partnerships. For realtors, the creation of a village makes a community more attractive to home buyers.

Audience members had a number of questions, including how long is the wait for a ride and does the volunteer wait around to drive the person back. Savage said her village asks people to request a ride a few days in advance. The length and kind of appointment determine whether the ride is one way or round trip.

One woman asked Breitler how the village will address diversity. Breitler said the board had contacted African
American and Hispanic groups and had translated their flyer into Spanish.

Savage said one difficulty her village had was getting people to ask for help. Indeed, no one at the Kemp Mill meeting said they needed the services of a village. Instead they voiced support for the idea and said they knew people who would benefit.

“I think it’s a very good idea,” said Rochelle Zall, who has lived in Kemp Mill since 1970 and heard about the meeting on a Kemp Mill listserv. “I have several neighbors who are aging in place, but could use a little help.”

Zall said she thought social isolation and transportation were the biggest needs.

Bev Morris and Art Boyers, also Kemp Mill residents, said they were longtime volunteers who have friends on the board and saw the meeting publicized in their synagogue newsletter. “It’s great to see the enthusiasm,” Boyers said.

For Herm and Ros Efron, it was nice to know these services would be available to them down the road. After all, Herm said, they are “very much needed” in the community.

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