By Southwester Staff
Building on lessons learned through the pandemic, Waterfront Village will be making major changes in the next five years to better support older adults in Southwest DC and Navy Yard, according to the Village’s recently released five-year strategic plan.
“We have always been here to support our members with social activities and home and health services,” said Carroll Quinn, president of the Village Board since January. “The pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests last year helped us recognize that there is much more we need to do as a community to help all older adults feel valued and supported.”
The Village was founded as a membership organization in 2016 and is one of 13 such Villages in the District of Columbia. It provides its members with social engagement opportunities and a wide range of home and health services, including transportation, technology assistance, light home repairs, check-in calls, and delivery services.
“The new plan is about getting more people involved so we can address the needs of those who could benefit from our service, but we haven’t reached previously,” Quinn said. “We recognize that there are still people falling through the cracks, and we want to catch those we can help.”
Quinn said that some older residents in our local area may not qualify for District services but could still use help. Many of these older adults could benefit from association with the Village. While she added that the Village will not be the answer for everyone, Village staff can always point people towards other resources which provide the needed services.
The new plan will expand membership, increase the number and quality of services, and partner with churches and other community organizations in the Southwest DC/Navy Yard neighborhood. “The plan is bold and challenging, and it changes how we look at our mission and what it means to the community,” said Quinn. “We hope to start the conversation about how our neighborhood supports – and benefits from – our older residents.”
The plan includes significant revisions to the Village’s vision statement and consists of five goals, each with specific performance targets. The planning process started last fall with an all-member survey seeking input on all facets of the Village’s operation and management. Many of the comments received were discussed and considered by the Board in making planning decisions. After the survey, the Board worked with a facilitator through the fall and winter to develop the expanded vision for the Village.
“As we get closer to the point where COVID-19 is under control, it will be important for the Village to relaunch its public activities in a very visible way,” said Len Bechtel, the Village’s Executive Director. “No group in the country has paid a higher price than those 60 years and older. Our message has got to be that we were there for you in the pandemic, and we are still here for you.”
Among the improvements targeted by the plan are:
- Establish membership subsidies for lower-income residents.
- Work with communities of faith and other community organizations to leverage resources for older adults.
- Expand outreach to underserved areas of the community.
- Increase the number and quality of home and health services.
- Create intergenerational volunteer opportunities to tap into the creativity and wisdom of older residents and ensure that support is available for older adults when they need it.
- Expand care navigation services for the frailest members.
- Continue to develop new, interesting, and enriching health and educational programming.
- Reach out to local agencies and elected officials to make sure older residents in our neighborhood can access services available from the District and federal governments.
“Many of the ideas reflected in the plan originated from comments received through our member survey. Members know best what their needs are and what they want to see from the Village,” Quinn said.
Waterfront Village will also continue to place a priority on recruiting and training volunteers to assist the neighborhood’s older residents. Quinn thinks that there are multiple benefits that younger volunteers can get by volunteering with the Village.
“For whatever reason, our society tends to push older people to the margins. One of the benefits of getting volunteers of all ages involved in the Village is that it can open some eyes about what older neighbors have to offer. Old age often is accompanied by useful wisdom and experience,” she said.
The Village plans to assist its members in becoming volunteers for other community groups too. Quinn notes that many Village members have worked for decades in some highly skilled fields, including doctors, engineers, lawyers and scientists, and can be wonderful resources for schools and other community groups.