Group asks county to join AARP network for seniors

By Heather Michon

How do we create a community that serves residents of every age? 

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors will vote later this summer on whether to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. This network provides access to communities to facilitate programs and policies that support seniors in areas like housing, social engagement, and access to services.

Marta Keane of the Charlottesville Area Alliance (CAA) gave a presentation to the supervisors at their May 4 meeting to talk about CAA’s action plan for creating a more age-friendly region, and to ask for Fluvanna County to join the AARP network.

CAA, which is composed of representatives from 30 local and regional organizations has been working on a five-year action plan for the last couple of years.

Their current plan looks at three main areas: increasing opportunities for social engagement by seniors, improving public transportation around the region, and supporting affordable housing for the elderly. 

Each of these goals has several “action steps” in various stages of development. For example, increasing social engagement includes things like educating the public about dementia and how to create dementia-friendly programs and policies, instituting a “buddy program” to support seniors who might be shy about getting out to social events, and developing programs to make sure African-American seniors have access to programs and events.   

Fluvanna’s over-65 population has grown from 15.7 percent in 2010 to 19.4 percent in 2020 and will continue to grow as more and more Baby Boomers reach their 60s and 70s. 

Keane praised Fluvanna for some of the work the community has already done to help seniors. 

She mentioned that the 2015 Comprehensive Plan was unique for the region in the number of times it talked about affordable, accessible housing for seniors. 

On AARP’s Livability Index, Fluvanna has a ranking of 51, putting it right in the middle of the scale in the eight key metrics the organization uses in assessing localities. Some areas where the county lags are higher than average transportation costs and lack of access to exercise opportunities like gyms but it does rank high in civic engagement among seniors.

There is no cost for joining the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities and the primary benefit is to access the organization’s research and resources. 

Resolutions in support of the CAA action plan and the county’s application to the AARP Network were not up for a vote at the May 4 meeting, but will likely reappear on the agenda as a voting matter later this year.

Supervisors Chris Fairchild (Cunningham) and Patricia Eager (Palmyra) both voiced concerns about signing on to the project, with Eager concerned that programs like this were often too Charlottesville-focused and didn’t take into account Fluvanna’s unique situations, and Fairchild skeptical of some of the language in the CAA action plan that he felt might potentially favor one group over another. 

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