My View: Alexandria is getting older, help us plan ahead

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Alexandria is a city dedicated to its youth. Programs in the public and private sectors are well funded and abundant to help our children succeed, but residents at the other end of the spectrum, age 60 and older, also deserve our attention. They have it and you can help shape their future, and your own, by contributing your ideas.

Residents under 19 comprise about 18 percent of the citys population, while Alexandrians 60 and older represent about 14 percent a 37 percent increase since the 2000 census. This trend reflects the national pattern. The first wave of baby boomers turned 65 in January and will continue at a meteoric rate of 10,000 a day.

This wave of older adults creates social and economic challenges that impact national, state, and local governments. This emerging generation of seniors, unprecedented in its size, is likely to live longer with chronic illnesses; watch health care, housing, and energy costs continue to rise; work longer; provide support for their adult children and rely more on paid caregivers if they have small families and if family members live far away.

Most Americans want to stay in their own homes and communities as they age. Grassroots, efforts such as villages, communities of volunteers who help people age in place, are emblematic of this trend. They are organic, naturally occurring retirement communities where individuals can live independently with services provided in their homes.

To support the ability of older Alexandrians to stay in the city and contribute to its vitality, the Alexandria City Council approved funding for a strategic plan, contracting with a consultant with experience in community planning and aging in place. The citys Division of Aging and Adult Services, in partnership with the Commission on Aging, envision the development of a strategic plan that creates a livable community where individuals of all ages, incomes and abilities can prosper and thrive.

The strategic planning process was designed to elicit a broad range of stakeholder input.  Community input was obtained through the development of a 22-member advisory committee, the appointment of 21 city employees as aging liaisons and town hall meetings that attracted about 400 people who discussed transportation, housing, health, quality of life and economic development in the context of Alexandrias older residents.

Work continues on the plan. Public comments and input continue to be incorporated and goals and objectives refined. The updated draft plan and Executive Summary will be available for review on the Citys web site. We will present the strategic plan at the October 25 city council meeting and at the council public hearing, November 12, where there will be opportunities for public input and comment.

As more and more people grow older in Alexandria, including, perhaps, you, make sure your voice is heard.

The writer is director of the Alexandria Office of Aging and Adult Services.

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