Georgetown Village celebrated its second year as an organization Thursday, boasting more than 200 members, with a party graced by wine, food from Cafe Milano and smiling member faces.
The village was started by Georgetown residents and helps retired neighbors age without having to leave their homes.
One of several in Washington, D.C., and across the nation, Georgetown Village is part of a movement aimed at providing an alternative to life in a nursing home for the more than 43 million people 65 and older living in the U.S.
According to a 2011 AARP report, 96 percent of people 65 and older want to live on their own for as long as possible.
Georgetown Village Founder Sharon Lockwood started planning the organization more than two years before it opened. She saw residents in her neighborhood were getting older and worried that in the future, they might need help, she said.
Shirly Barth joined in the beginning, but didn’t think she needed it, she said. But when she broke her foot last month, she was relieved to have someone to rely on.
“You never know, but insurance is insurance, if you don’t use it, you’ve still got it,” Barth said.
During the past year, the village had more 444 requests for services and filled about 99 percent of those requests, said Lynn Golub-Rofrano, executive director and only paid employee of the Georgetown Village.
The nonprofit has 62 trained volunteers that offer services like rides to doctor’s appointments, home visits, handyman work, grocery shopping and even Christmas decorating.
Golub-Rofrano is constantly answering her phone for member requests of so many varieties that she has adopted the slogan, “There’s a volunteer for that,” she said.
Georgetown resident Rebecca Risser volunteers with the organization. She answers member phone calls, runs errands and drives people to appointments. And her much taller boyfriend put up someone’s Christmas lights the other day, she said.
As a volunteer, she recognizes her neighbors more and feels more connected to the city.
“It’s a sense of community, togetherness, it brings people together, makes them more social,” she said.
In addition to helping members with daily chores or medical needs, the organization also provides service recommendations and hosts social activities.
Using services recommended through the village adds a level of accountability for businesses working with members, Golub-Rofrano said.
Sometimes when the customer is an older person, businesses might not do as good of a job, Golub-Rofrano said. “We want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Georgetown Village’s almost daily social events include exercise classes, book discussions and museum tours.
Rita Sharon joined the village a few months ago and says she goes to all the events. Signed up by her daughter, Sharon didn’t know the organization existed but says that it has helped her get through a tough year.
“This has been a godsend,” Sharon said. “It really has… to be able to get out.”
This year, the village is offering a tax-deductible social membership for members who want to partake in activities but don’t need living assistance yet. The membership ensures the village’s existence for when the member needs more services and also allows for them to get help in an emergency, Golub-Rofrano said.
Georgetown resident Martine De Lusignan said it is really nice to interact with people who are in similar situations as she and her husband who has Alzheimer’s. The couple used to have friends from their professional lives, but now enjoys the opportunity to socialize with neighbors.
“It’s a neighborhood kind of life,” De Lusignan said. “This is a really rich community in terms of culture and experience.”