When Judy Rosen and her neighbors moved into their brand-new homes in the wooded hills near Mount Vernon in the 1950s, they were happy to hop in their cars and drive. They battled developers who wanted to build shops nearby.
"Unfortunately, most communities developed over the past several decades are not conducive to 'aging in place,' " the aging plan said. "The vast majority of us live in suburbs — often in homes that present barriers as we age and located outside of public transit routes."
Mount Vernon At Home members can call as often as necessary for rides, handyman jobs and home technology support. If members need a plumber or other tradesman, the organization contacts one from a list of vetted, preferred providers.
"There's a good feeling when things go wrong to have someone to lean on," Rosen said. Twice widowed and the mother of six, Rosen remains impressively active — swimming one mile a day and walking four. She drives in daytime but limits driving in the dark to short, familiar routes. Rosen refuses to be a burden to her friends or her far-flung children scattered across the country.
Volunteers have come to Rosen's home to replace a hard-to-reach light bulb, stop a leaky faucet and a running toilet, twist the intake lever on a new gas grill, secure the bolts on a tree swing, fix her computer and tamp down a protruding floor tile. Mount Vernon At Home also provided references for an air-conditioning service and a plumber.
Village membership fees vary by location and the level of services offered, from about $30 to hundreds of dollars a year. Mount Vernon At Home's annual fees are on the high end — $800 for a couple or $550 for singles. Members pay contractors separately.
In the rural Clifton-Fairfax Station area, where many people live on five acres or more, Transition in Place Services (CFS-TIPS) offers transportation, help with household chores and help for the homebound. Its three dozen members pay $75 for individuals and $150 for households.
"People out here are pretty independent and won't always ask their neighbor for help, or they don't know their neighbors," said Marilyn Stoney, executive director of the all-volunteer group. "That independent streak might work against them as they grow older."
Many villages offer wellness activities and a social component such as conversation groups and outings to cultural events.
In Reston, a planned community built in the 1960s, a residents' survey of needs took place this summer. A community forum on aging is scheduled Oct. 9; you can register online at www.aginginreston.org or call 703-966-6182.
"The founder's idea was to enable people to live here for a lifetime," said Steve Gurney, the publisher of "Guide to Retirement Living Sourcebook," who grew up in Reston and now lives there.
Fifty years later, the village concept may make that dream possible.
Other villages in development are: At Home in Alexandria (email@example.com), Glencarlyn Citizens Association (firstname.lastname@example.org ) and Mosby Woods Village (email@example.com).
Marsha Mercer is a freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va.