Individuals who helped develop the 50+ Community Action Plan pose with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Photo by Tim Peterson.
Supervisor Pat Herrity’s so-called “Silver Tsunami” population in Fairfax County isn’t getting any younger. The data haven’t changed: the amount of people over 50 should increase by 40 percent between 2005 and 2030, and those 70 and older should shoot up 80 percent in the same period.
The Fairfax Area Commission on Aging, together with the Board of Supervisors, first drafted a plan in 2007 to make the county more aging-friendly -- to brace for the tsunami. It would take a few more years for the plan to grow teeth.
A major makeover of that initial plan started in 2013, drawing input from a robust public outreach campaign. Herrity then presented the new and improved 50+ Community Action Plan to the Board at their meeting on Sept. 9.
When the item came up for a vote at the Sept. 23 meeting, the motion to adopt the plan passed unanimously.
“It’s been a real journey,” Hunter Mill Supervisor Catherine Hudgins addressed the action plan team being recognized. “You can’t walk out and change in a day, but you can sit and methodically go through what needs to be done.”
Hudgins emphasized the importance of keeping elderly people within existing communities. “I want the diversity of age,” she said, “it makes us thrive. Not only being served, but by giving back. We want all of that to happen.”
IN HIS ADDITIONAL REMARKS, Herrity made the point that the title of the new plan includes the word “Community” for a reason. The six aging-friendly areas the plan addresses -- Transportation, Housing, Safe and Healthy Community, Community Engagement, Services for Older Adults and Family Caregivers, and Long-term Planning -- rely heavily on community-driven initiatives with a civic leader but minimal government overhead.
Several of these initiatives are already up and running, according to Herrity. One is a home-sharing concept led by Jim Lindsay, vice president of Adult Companion Care.
“We’re the guinea pig right now,” said Lindsay. “What’s it going to be like, to have us all aging? Once that occurs, man, to be ahead of the curve is a gift.”
“They've actually got draft leases -- people signed up -- with three test cases already,” Herrity said.
Another initiative is a car ride-share and scheduling system being organized by the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia. “NV rides is moving forward, like gangbusters,” said Herrity.
“That's what was most exciting today for me,” he continued, “to hear about the progress on the initiatives that we hadn't even passed yet.”
CHAIRMAN SHARON BULOVA praised the “wonderful plan,” calling it “truly a living document” that represents “an ongoing recognition of our changing demographics and communities changing to meet the challenge.”
“Now it's the time to implement it and track the progress,” said Herrity. Together with gerontologists from George Mason University, the Commission on Aging will grade the effectiveness of the various initiatives quarterly or annually and report back to the Board.
“While I'm relieved and happy that they were able to get the Community Plan passed, now the real work starts,” said Herrity. “Really this is the beginning, not the end.”
The complete 50+ Community Action plan can be found online in PDF form at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/olderadults.