And that’s where Fairfax Village in the City comes in. “It’s for City residents, age 55 and up, as well as adults with disabilities,” said Village Coordinator Jason Scadron. “The goal is to support healthy aging with free services performed by volunteers to help them stay independent. And all volunteers are vetted in advance to make sure they’re trustworthy.”
This City-supported program also focuses on building personal connections among neighbors, giving seniors useful information and providing them with opportunities for social interaction. The Village doesn’t replace existing supports and services available to them via Fairfax County and local nonprofits; and, indeed, it can help them access these resources.
And with one-fourth of Fairfax City’s residents – nearly 6,000 people – already 65 or older, it’s something needed here. According to the 2021 census, 14.8 percent of Fairfax’s almost 24,000 total residents are in their mid to late 60s, 6.5 percent are in their 70s, and 3.7 percent are in their 80s and above.
Furthermore, said Scadron, “The pandemic placed a spotlight on the negative emotional and social impacts of isolation, particularly on older adults.” But even before then, longtime Fairfax resident Carolyn Sutterfield – who represented the City on the Fairfax Area Commission on Aging – knew the City’s older residents wanting to stay in their homes would need help as they aged.
So she contacted former City Council member Janice Miller about starting a Village here. Miller then connected Sutterfield with Human Services Director Lesley Abashian to help create a steering committee including Fairfax City stakeholders and staff.
Eventually, the Village was formally created in April 2022 and started accepting applications for members and volunteers the next month. Scadron coordinates the services offered, promotes and markets the Village at City events and works with its advisory board – including Council representative Tom Ross – which guides the Village’s work.
City residents sign up to participate, and then volunteers do a multitude of tasks for them. They provide transportation to doctors’ appointments and social events, the grocery store and pharmacy. They also perform simple, handyman jobs around the house – everything from raking leaves to light gardening, shoveling snow, clearing branches after a storm, changing light bulbs in a ceiling fixture, moving furniture, hanging pictures and holiday decorations, and doing minor home repairs.
“If it takes a group effort – such as installing a ramp, grab bars or handrails – we hope Rebuilding Together could work with us on it,” said Scadron. “In addition, volunteers provide technology support for computer and iPhone connectivity problems, and they also make friendly visits and/or phone calls to the members, once a week.
“They’ll even do emergency pet care, if a person needs someone to look after their pet while they’re gone for a short while. Our volunteers are of different age ranges and skills and do what they do to give back and pay it forward. And if a member needs a service we can’t help with, I can point them to other resources provided by the county or nonprofits.”
Scadron said most villages in the U.S. are nonprofit, with members paying a fee. “But the City supports us financially under its Human Services Department, so all the services are free to the members,” he explained. “Also, some villages are neighborhood-based, but ours is the whole City.”
The Fairfax Village partners with the City’s Fire Department, and Lt. David Arrington is its community paramedic. “After a 911 call, for example, he conducts follow-up, medical-care appointments with a member,” said Scadron. “He also does home-safety surveys, making members aware of any tripping hazards, and will check their smoke alarms, too.”
When residents join the Village, they’re asked in their application if they have any health or mobility issues. “We want to know what kind of support, such as grab bars, they have in their home, and if they receive help from a health aide or family members,” said Scadron. “We also ask for an emergency contact.”
The Village began offering services in October and currently has more than 40 members and some 30 volunteers, including GMU students. Members receive a handbook about the services offered and there’s a volunteer orientation.
“It’s working really well,” said Scadron. “It’s rewarding to connect a member to a volunteer, and I get feedback from members afterward about how it went. It’s great to know the member was happy and that the volunteer got a great sense of satisfaction from helping them.”
He said members tend to be in their 70s, 80s and early 90s, and some are both members and volunteers. For example, they can still drive, but can’t climb ladders. Most of all, said Scadron, the Village lets them control where and how they live.
“Studies found that nearly 90 percent of adults want to stay in their homes and communities as they age,” he said. “The Village helps them stay connected to their city and successfully age on their own terms. They realize they can ask for and receive help from people wanting to give it, and they feel worthwhile that they can remain independent.”
Village member Agnes Rassam knew about such villages and was “delighted the City started one. I have a wonderful shopping volunteer and am amazed how well our match is working.”
Member Annette Kane was also excited Fairfax established a village because “they provide assistance that makes it easy and cost-effective to manage your home. I’ve received help with an overhead light and gardening. I can’t kneel to remove the invasive ivy growing underneath my air-conditioning unit, but a Village volunteer did it for me.” Because of the Village, she said, “I can maintain and stay in my home and not have to move into a facility.”
Volunteer Manisha Maskay is an advocate for “older people with disabilities who are vulnerable for multiple reasons. I connect with homebound people or their caregivers who haven’t been able to leave and connect with anyone outside. So I call them weekly and we chat about the weather, books, electronic games and the City.
“Since I’m relatively new to Fairfax, they’ve given me info about it, and it makes them feel happy to be helpful. I believe you learn and grow from every interaction with others, and connecting with them makes me feel good inside and makes them feel like someone cares about them.”
Another volunteer, Karl Tammaro, has mainly done yard work – raking leaves and clearing overgrown areas. And he’s happy to do it. “I believe it’s in our human makeup to want to help others in need, and volunteering is a civic duty, to some degree,” he said. “I’m retired and now have more flexibility to volunteer.
“I especially like the concept of volunteering in the community where you live, as it strengthens the community bonds,” he continued. “I volunteer to hopefully make a small difference in someone’s day, but I also get something in return – reduced stress and a ‘helper's high’ feeling. It’s pretty powerful when you can help others while also deriving a benefit.”
For more information about Fairfax Village in the City, go to https://www.fairfaxva.gov/government/human-services/fairfax-village-in-the-city-advisory-board or call 703-385-5738.
FAIRFAX AREA VILLAGE PROGRAMS
Fairfax Village in the City
Herndon Village Network https://herndonvillagenetwork.org/
Lake Barcroft Village https://www.lakebarcroftvillage.org/
Mount Vernon at Home Village http://www.mountvernonathome.org/
Reston for a Lifetime https://www.restonforalifetime.org/
Reston Useful Services Exchange https://restonuse.org/
Village Drive Village
More information on Fairfax Villages: To learn more about organizing a village or to have someone come and speak to your group, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703-246-8962, TTY 711.
Arlington Neighborhood Village
Home for Life Expo: March 31 at Sherwood Center
Fairfax Village in the City will hold a Home for Life 2023 Expo on Friday, March 31, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. It’s at the Sherwood Community Center, 3740 Blenheim Blvd. in Fairfax. Free and open to the public, it’s hosted by the Village’s Advisory Board, and Mayor Catherine Read will make opening remarks.
“People will leave with lots of resources to help them plan to age in place,” said Village Coordinator Jason Scadron. “They’ll also discover different opportunities and resources they weren’t aware of.”
Various speakers will discuss, for example, how to stay strong and healthy, preventing falls, safety, home repairs, using technology and connecting with volunteers to obtain transportation. In addition, more than 20 exhibitors will present information on subjects such as estate planning, nutrition, lifetime learning, long-term care, medical house calls, memory care, and handyman help.
The idea is to enable people to safely remain in their “home for life.” During this event, attendees will be encouraged to evaluate the challenges and advantages of their current living situation. At the same time, they’ll learn how to adapt for successful aging and will meet local agencies and providers who can help them do it – or, if necessary, find desirable alternatives.
Registration is not required.
All in all, he added, “The expo encompasses the various aspects of taking care of ourselves as we get older. We want to empower people to make the best decisions for themselves, and this is an opportunity to provide them with the tools and information to help make those decisions.”
To see the speakers and exhibitors, go to https://www.fairfaxva.gov/Home/Components/News/News/12292/18.