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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Braddock District explores formation of aging-in-place network

A group of civic leaders in the Braddock District are in the early stages of forming an “aging-in-place” network aimed at providing services to make it easier for senior citizens to stay in their homes.

The Aging-in-Place Committee, led by Bruce Wallachy, held its first meeting last week and will meet again Wednesday, Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m., in Braddock Hall, 9002 Burke Lake Road, Burke. All interested Braddock residents are invited. 

The effort is being coordinated through the Braddock District Council (BDC) of Community Associations. A BDC survey of members last February identified aging-in-place as one of their top priorities.

The committee’s purpose, as laid out in a draft statement is “to address issues of concerns of Braddock District residents who want to continue living in Braddock District and continue contributing to making life better for Braddock District residents by offering their talents and energies.”

The first step is assessing the needs of older resident and identifying the resources available in the county, Wallachy says. The group is considering all sorts of needs that elderly people might have, such as transportation, socialization, legal assistance, housing, food, education, home repairs, and medical needs.

The committee will then work on matching resources to needs, identify gaps, and create programs to address the needs not covered by volunteer, county, or state programs. At the group’s first meeting, Tena Bluhm, chair of the Fairfax Area Commission on Aging, and commission member Kenneth B. Malmberg described some of the many services available, such as the Special Needs Registry, transportation programs for seniors, the Center Without Walls, and the “Mature Living” cable show.

“We would like to have people become experts in certain areas and develop an understanding of local community issues,” Wallachy says. He envisions the BDC serving as an umbrella group, with local communities forming separate aging-in-place networks.

There are different models of aging-in-place networks around the country. Some of them have a paid director who acts as a concierge, coordinating a group of volunteers who can drive seniors to doctor’s appointments and grocery stores, arrange for home repairs, or provide other services. Other networks are more informal, providing social gatherings or educational programs. An aging-in-place network in Lake Barcroft is in the planning stages.

“We haven’t decided how engaged we want to be,” Wallachy says. The 22 people who came to the meeting last week included retirees, people preparing to retire, and people caring for aging family members. Wallachy, a retiree who lives in Kings Park West, is a former chair of the BDC.

He would like to see the committee sponsor presentations at BDC meetings, collect more information about the needs of seniors, develop a home improvement assessment team, set up a “help wanted” site, create a “time bank” to manage work credits that could be used later as needed, and promote active engagement with county and state officials on legislation and regulations to support the needs of seniors.

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