Reston explores Village idea to make it easier for seniors to stay in community

By Kali Schumitz
Fairfax County Times
Thursday, September 30, 2010

Reston community leaders are coming together to develop a stronger support system that will allow senior citizens to remain in their homes after retirement.

The development of community-supported programs called "Villages," which allow neighbors to support each other by providing services such as transportation and home maintenance, is an ideal concept for the area, said Steve Gurney, publisher of the Guide to Retirement Living Sourcebook and a Reston resident.

Villages use volunteers to offer services that supplement those that governments, nonprofits and private businesses provide. Such organizations can range from an online network to connect neighbors, to a nonprofit coordinating volunteer services tailored to meet the needs of a small geographic area. In some cases, residents might pay an annual fee for the service.

The Aging in Reston group is trying to raise awareness of existing services and is conducting an online survey of residents' thoughts about aging in place, as it prepares to develop a Village model in Reston.

"Over 80 percent of the people that we surveyed have said that they feel that Reston is an elder-friendly community," Gurney said. "But when they dig deeper, there are some critical issues," including affordability, transportation and accessibility for people with mobility problems.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey 2006-08, the most recent statistics available, about 6,000 of Reston's 53,679 residents are 65 or older. Of Fairfax County's 1 million or so residents, about 96,100 are senior citizens. The percentage of seniors in Reston and Fairfax County -- 11.2 and 9.6, respectively -- is below the national average of 12.6 percent.

Aging in Reston will conduct its first public forum Oct. 9. Through the forum, the group hopes to raise awareness about public services available to seniors and present four examples of Villages that would provide additional services.

"We want to point people in the right direction . . . and we also want to encourage them to think creatively about how they can remain here," Gurney said.

"We hope this event is just the beginning," said Patricia Williams, an event organizer. "Reston is so unique; we want to create whatever will work best for Reston."

One such Village exists in Fairfax County.

The nonprofit Mount Vernon at Home helps provide clients within a 14-square-mile service area in southeastern Fairfax County the assistance they need to age in place. Mount Vernon at Home's annual membership costs $550 for a single-person household and $800 for a household of two or more, according to The money in part pays for the upkeep of the group's office, along with the salary of an executive director and an office assistant.

Mount Vernon at Home uses volunteers to help its 131 members with services such as transportation to doctor appointments, stores and social events. Volunteers also have helped deliver a hot Christmas dinner and solve computer problems. The nonprofit offers referrals for services it does not provide.

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