Mt. Airy residents discuss new aging in place initiative

More than 45 residents crammed into Lovett Memorial Library’s meeting room Monday night with the same goal in mind: to grow old in their longtime homes.

Over the course of about two hours, the group, mostly made up of senior citizens, began a discussion about how to make that a reality during Mutual Mt. Airy’s first community meeting.

“The idea is to create a community of folks who help each other out in the process of aging in place while staying in our own homes, in our own neighborhoods as long as we can,” said Peter Javsicas, a self-described “convener” of Mutual Mt. Airy.

During the meeting, residents, most of whom hailed from the nascent initiative’s namesake neighborhood, split into clusters to hash out what specific services they’d want from an aging in place organization.

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Top vote-getters included, among other things, having a volunteer database, handyman services, a car share and a network focused on social interaction.

Debra Dempsey, a Chestnut Hill resident, noted that it will be important for membership to cover a range of ages so that those ideas can still be provided as participants grow older.

“It’s not going to work if we all age at the same time or you’re going to go to a lot of funerals and it’s going to die,” said Debra Dempsey, a Chestnut Hill resident.

It’s too early to say, at this point, if Mutual Mt. Airy will develop into a full-fledge organization. Part of Monday’s mission was to see if there was enough interest in the idea to work towards that end.

As she surveyed a packed room, Anne Javsicas, another founder of the group, was encouraged.

“One of the big questions for us coming in was ‘is there enough interest in the area to age in place? By the strength in numbers, I think we do,” said Javsicas.

Maurice Sampson, a longtime Mt. Airy resident brought in to organize and help kick start the effort, was equally optimistic. Given the nature of the neighborhood, he said he’s convinced Mutual Mt. Airy can become something substantial.

“This is Mt Airy,” he said after the meeting. “I don’t have any doubt that we can make this happen if we want it to happen.”

“There’s a whole lot of talent in this room,” he added.

Mutual Mt. Airy’s next meeting will be Jan. 14 at Lovett Library. The evening will focus on similar efforts already underway across the country, including East Falls Village in Philadelphia and Beacon Hill Village in Boston.

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