A Reflection of Fairfax County's 50+ Community Action Plan

Provided by Donna Lopez, Assistant Director at the Herndon Senior Center, Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services

This week is the Connection Newspapers Senior Living Focus edition. The Connection invited local senior program specialist(s) and citizens of all ages to engage in open conversation on how seniors experience well-being on a personal level, how best to promote well-being later in life and what factors might be culprits for lower well-being.

The following were possible Conversation Starters given to Donna Lopez, Assistant Director at the Herndon Senior Center, Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services, on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, as she worked with seniors at the center:

• Although you are as only as old as you feel, what age do you consider to be the senior-citizen threshold and why?

• What factors might be culprits for lower well being, those that have the most substantial negative impact on a senior's well-being?

• How best in the local community, are factors such as physical, mental and spiritual needs, the more "subjective factors of a senior's well-being," met or not met? What about more objective needs, such as financial stability/wellbeing?

• On a scale of 1-10, how well do you think a senior's voice and opinions, talents and skills are solicited and respected in the community and ultimately incorporated?

Donna Lopez, Assistant Director at the Herndon Senior Center, Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services:

The following reflects Fairfax County's 50+ Community Action Plan, as well as the broader variety of programs not only at the Herndon Senior Center, but at all of the county’s 14 senior centers, including the Sully Senior Center.

Fairfax County’s population of adults aged 50 and older is estimated to reach around 452,000 by 2040 – that’s about 33 percent of the total county population. With this trend in mind, Fairfax County has adopted the 50+ Community Action Plan to identify and address the needs and interests of older adults 50 and over, and to plan for their continued engagement in the community as they enter their golden years.

In the September 2017 report of the 50+ Community Action Plan, several of the common challenges facing older adults in Fairfax County include health-related issues, isolation and loneliness, mobility and transportation, limited financial resources and being the target of criminal activity.

Fairfax County’s 14 senior centers provide a welcoming and safe environment for older adults to socialize and engage. Our programs, activities and events – each tailored to the specific interests and needs of the center’s surrounding community – afford older adults opportunities to pursue hobbies, set and achieve health and fitness goals, learn new skills, and cultivate friendships with others in the community. All of our centers offer inclusion services, which provide assistance to participants with minor cognitive and physical disabilities to participate in day-to-day activities as well as offer guidance and referrals to additional programs and services that meet evolving needs. We provide participants with options for transportation and meals as well.

Each of our senior centers has a participant-led advisory council, which offers insight into the needs and interests of each community. Together with our advisory councils, our center staff plan activities, guest speakers and workshops to address a myriad of topics such as learning about how to use a smartphone or email, understanding Medicare, or even learning to protect themselves from potential scammers.

Speaking for Fairfax County’s senior centers, we certainly value our participants' talents and welcome their suggestions and engagement. The opportunities we provide are the result of constant collaboration and partnership with the communities we serve, and we make every effort to ensure that our spaces afford everyone – regardless of age, background or ability – the chance to share their talents, cultivate new ones and enjoy being part of a community of fellowship. We welcome any and all suggestions and questions – just contact your local senior center to learn more.

You can find us online at www.fairfaxcounty.gov; just use the search tool and look for senior centers.

For information on services, recreational activities and volunteer opportunities, go to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/OlderAdults. You will also find a subscription link to the free monthly Golden Gazette.

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