Montgomery County considers ways to help upcounty seniors -- Gazette.Net


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Upcounty residents are concerned about a lack of resources and support for the elderly as Montgomery County’s senior population continues to grow.

John J. Kenney, chief of the county’s Aging and Disability Services division, said “aging in place,” or seniors living in their own homes, is no longer the “panacea” once widely prescribed.

Kenney met Monday with the Upcounty Citizens Advisory Board, which comprises 20 upcounty residents who represent different communities, including Montgomery Village, Laytonsville, Dickerson and Germantown.

According to Pazit Aviv, village coordinator with the county, senior villages generally form because of geographic proximity. The villages are generally grassroots-led communities of existing neighbors who support one another, and hold social events such as potlucks. More than a dozen have formed in Montgomery County.

Catherine Matthews, director of the Upcounty Regional Office, expressed concern that upcounty seniors are isolated and would be left out of new villages because they are geographically separated.

Aviv said there may be an opportunity for the county to help.

“One of the reasons people had to move to assisted living is because ... there was no local initiative to improve that and create that aging-in-place situation,” she said.

Transportation is an important need for senior villages, Aviv said.

The county’s new senior transportation service, which started in January, picks up residents from their homes and takes them to and from the county’s senior centers on weekdays. But of the five participating centers, only one is upcounty: the Damascus Senior Center.

“Our seniors today are so much more vibrant, more active, more mobile, and we need to make sure we can engage them,” Matthews said.

Kenney said the demand for county-funded recreational activities, geared toward seniors, is high. When the county recently offered a bone-building class to help fight osteoporosis, Kenney said, seniors “flooded the registration.”

“Like kids signing up for summer swim classes,” he said.

Aviv, who holds a newly funded position as village coordinator, said part of her job is to make connections and possibly change how villages are formed, if it benefits seniors around the county. Her department is conducting research, but it is not yet clear how the county plans to help upcounty seniors.

scarignan@gazette.net