A volunteer group is trying build a network among senior citizens and their neighbors in Silver Spring.
The organization, called the Downtown Silver Spring Senior Village, would function as a collective of volunteers helping each other, specifically seniors.
People of all ages would join the group and pay an annual membership fee. The members of the group would then help each other. For example, if a senior member needs a ride to a doctor’s appointment, someone in the network would drive them there.
“The idea is to form a community of people that live in a certain geographic area and are of an age where they might need help and they might want to socialize,” said founding member Roberta Gosier.
The group is based off a model created by the first Senior Village in Beacon Hill in Boston. The model, which allows seniors to age in the same place they have spent most of their lives, has spread to communities across the country.
“This goes back to the front porch thing,” Gosier said. “It’s that sort of a social environment.”
Other senior villages exist in Montgomery County in places such as Chevy Chase and Bethesda. But founding members of the Silver Spring Senior Village said they will tailor their group to the economic and ethnic diversity in Silver Spring.
The group also would find ways for senior members to contribute with certain skills they have.
“We are very much hoping to include the ideal concept where older people contribute the talents and services they have,” said member Chuck Thornton, who also is marketing director at Springvale Terrace, a senior living home.
Founding members of the nonprofit started the group in October. Nine people attended the planning meeting, and Gosier said about 50 people have attended the group’s information sessions. Although the group still is in the planning stages, Gosier said they hope to be operating by October 2012.
The organization would target people in the 20910 ZIP code, which covers most of downtown, but it is open to anyone who wants to join, said founding member Martine Brizius.
“It’s really hard to say no to anyone who’s close and inside the Beltway,” Brizius said.
The group meets once a month and is working on filing for tax exemption status as a nonprofit.
Nine members met Sept. 14 in the dining room of Springvale Terrace, a senior home on Springvale Road.
They discussed raising money for start-up costs, creating business cards for the group, filling out their tax exemption forms and reaching out to people to advertise the group.
“What has been an interesting part of Downtown Silver Spring Senior Village is every meeting we get a little bit further,” Thornton said. “We talk about what would be the best model for this unique ZIP code.”
The group has joined with Springvale Terrace, which hosts their meetings for free, and the Silver Spring Regional Services Center. Director Reemberto Rodriguez of the regional services center said he tries to attend every meeting or send a member of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board.
“In these times of shrinking resources, it’s amazing that a group of area residents have identified this need,” Rodriguez said. “What started being a handful of willing folks has now grown to be bona fide resident-driven community initiative.”
For more information on Downtown Silver Spring Senior Village, go to www.dsssvillage.org.
“People want to be socially connected,” Thornton said. “They don’t want to be in their own homes or in their own apartments. They want to be part of something.”