By Liz Festa, THIH contributor and Capitol Hill Village volunteer
Many of our older Hill-area neighbors have trod, sashayed or picked their way over cobblestone, rubble, marshes, dance floors and asphalt, but now their pace has slowed and their steps are harder won.
Although they’ve taken so many steps, a senior living here would like to go buy new sandals to keep her feet cool in summer, while another would love to go try on some purple eyeglass frames. Other village elders need help getting to the barbershop or beauty salon or to Eastern Market to chat with longtime vendors while picking up some fresh fruit and pastries. And, of course, there all those trips to the doctor or clinic that come with age.
Capitol Hill Village volunteers help chauffeur our neighbors to these places and more —and have a fulfilling and interesting time doing it.
On the ride, your passenger might tell you of his journey as a young man to the U.S., his career as a labor lawyer or doctor or Congressional staffer during another tumultuous time in American politics, or as a participant in the vibrant jazz club scene, or she’ll tell you about the time she stood unmovable in front of a chestnut tree in Lincoln Park while protesting.
Capitol Hill Village, the second-oldest aging-in-place community in the U.S., has been working for over 12 years providing emotional and practical support for our neighbors choosing to live their golden years at home. CHV connects volunteer drivers and shoppers from among its members and all neighbors. Many of the volunteer chauffeurs are members themselves who can drive and navigate well and help their less agile contemporaries get to the doctor or help get their beloved pooch or kitty to the vet.
Volunteers who help get seniors to and from their appointments or accompany them throughout say their experience is rewarding. “ In return for helping older members get to and from medical and other appointments, grocery and clothing stores, and a few entertainment venues, I have had the pleasure of broadening my acquaintance with my neighbors – many of whom share interesting life stories – and increasing my familiarity with locations near and far within the DC/MD/VA area,” says Kate Dewar. Dewar, a Capitol Hill resident, began volunteering to drive for the nonprofit last year. She says a that the appeal also includes flexibility as to whether she will accept assignments or pass on them, and the care with which the office coordinators reach out.
Floyd Brown, a longtime Hill resident and CHV member who has driven women and older couples to the doctor, enjoys the sense of being helpful.
“Often we are a source of increased contact with the outside world for those who are isolated due to medical conditions or lack of available family members. The value of this social interaction cannot be underestimated,” Brown tells us. Time, he notes, is the greatest gift of all to share.
Brown also extols the personal satisfaction brought about by the positive reactions drivers get from the riders: “It really makes you feel as though you are doing something useful.”
To share in this experience as a driver, social companion, or both, please contact Meghan Wrinkle at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 202-543-1778. You can also fill out the volunteer form, which you can find here.