Network for elderly services moves forward

A community group looking to link senior citizens with their Foggy Bottom neighbors has seen interest in the program double in the last year.

Monroe Wright, project chair for the Aging in Place program that will pair elders with volunteer services so they can stay in their homes rather than move to an assisted living community, said there are about 200 prospective members. With $25,000 on hand, mostly from private donations, planning for the program can officially begin.

Counting up potential member fees – about $700 per senior – Wright said the group is getting closer to meeting its $150,000 fundraising goal to hire a director, train volunteers, rent office space and run the network for two years.

“We needed at minimum 100 people to express interest, and we’ve received 200. We’re very pleased with community response,” Wright said. He hopes the program can launch in mid-2013.

The project is partnered with the local Foggy Bottom Association. Besides neighbor-to-neighbor help, like drives to doctors’ appointments, the program will offer trips and events like book clubs, cocktail parties, outdoor activities and museum trips.

Lorna Grenadier, a board member for Aging in Place, said the program plans to reach out to Foggy Bottom and West End neighbors, including GW students, to help get it off the ground. She said they hope to have a one-to-one ratio for volunteers and members.

“What is critical for a village to succeed, it has to have volunteers,” 63-year-old Grenadier said. She added that the board is in talks with GW’s Office of Community Relations and has attended local meetings to recruit students and staff members. The group also plans to rev up interest Oct. 21 at the FRIENDS Neighborhood Block Party held at GW.

“The Village Board is eager to work with the University as a strategic partner in our development and is preparing a comprehensive strategy to engage with GWU,” Grenadier said.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said GW does not have plans to partner with the program, but said it “remained open to negotiations.” She added that resources like computer technology assistance already exist for the elderly community.

John and Ana Clark, 85 and 73 respectively, plan on joining the program next year and said they are excited to see how it will play out for the community.

“The idea of Aging in Place of course for everybody is ideal, but you can’t pull it off all by yourself, so that’s where the village centers,” said Ana Clark, who said she hopes to make new friendships among members and volunteers.

There are seven elder communities across the District, including in the Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Glover Park and Capitol Hill neighborhoods.

The Clarks previously looked into the Capitol Hill community for the elderly, but opted out due to its distance from their Potomac Plaza home near Columbia Plaza.

“If the village is expansive enough and brings in enough young people, as well as older and aging people, that’s going to expand possibilities in all directions,” she said.

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