By 2030, one-in-four Virginians will be over 60 years old. That’s over half a million more people than today, and that number will include me too. This is a tremendous demographic change, and it will present the Commonwealth with many new challenges to allow Virginians to age with dignity and respect.
Last week, many colleagues and I attended the Northern Virginia Aging Network’s (NVAN) 17th annual legislative breakfast.
NVAN consists of staff representatives from the five Northern Virginia Agencies on Aging, board members from the local Commissions on Aging, and representatives of allied organizations such as the Alzheimer's Association, National Association of Retired Federal Employees, and AARP. Participants meet every other month at NVRC to discuss issues of mutual concern, to craft a legislative platform for presentation to the Virginia General Assembly, and to discuss regional responses to critical issues affecting Northern Virginia's older adults.
As many readers know, elder care issues are one of my top priorities. Last session, I patroned legislation currently being studied by the Department of Aging and Rehabilitation Services that would address bank fraud in the senior community.
In 2017, I will patron legislation to create non-expiring ID cards for residents age 80 and above. Wisconsin began issuing senior ID cards this year, and it allows seniors to forego having to wait in line at the DMV or pay money to update their existing ID cards every five years, as is currently in the Code of Virginia.
These senior-IDs are not driver’s licenses, which seniors will still need to have renewed as normal. These ID cards are for seniors who do not drive, but still desire a government-issued photo ID for reasons that might include doctor’s visits, purchasing alcohol, and opening a bank account.
Many of NVAN’s legislative priorities align with my volunteer work as a board member of Mount Vernon at Home, which is a nonprofit helping area residents age in-place safely, comfortably, and confidently in their own homes in the community they love. I am going through this experience as I move my elderly parents from their condo into my home. My family is graciously helping to enhance accessibility with items like a ramp entrance and handrails.
As our aging population increases, we must work to keep elderly Virginians in their home community where they provide so much experience to the rest of us. These oldest members of our community make wonderful volunteers in our places of worship, with local nonprofits and schools and in daily civic life. Through aging in-place, they provide continuity and a living memory and knowledge of our local history.
Good public policy requires that we recognize the importance of our growing senior population, both their needs and their considerable value to our community.