An umbrella organization created to boost awareness of senior issues has been formally endorsed by both the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council.
“By 2024, our area will have one in four people over the age of 65,” said Marta Keane, CEO of the Jefferson Area Board for Aging and an organizer behind the new Charlottesville Area Alliance.
Data from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia projects the number of people over 65 in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission will climb to 57,013 in 2030. That’s up from 24,488 in the year 2000.
“We know that the demographic is growing, and we know that people are choosing to age in community here and in the surrounding counties,” Keane said. “They’re not moving away, and we know we’re a destination for retirees.”
The Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution last week supporting the group’s goals and the City Council followed suit Monday evening.
“The Charlottesville Area Alliance is a collective of Albemarle’s regional partners who aim to lead the advancement of an age-friendly community,” said Supervisor Brad Sheffield, reading from the proclamation.
Keane said the organization will measure eight aspects that the World Health Organization considers when investigating whether communities are prepared for people to age in a healthy manner. These include transportation, housing, social participation and the built environment.
The alliance consists in part of JABA, the Senior Center, the Alzheimer’s Association, JAUNT, CvilleVillage, Hospice of the Piedmont, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and Westminster-Canterbury of the Blue Ridge.
Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program, Albemarle County and Charlottesville all are represented, as well.
The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission also is involved.
“Are we planning our roads properly to accommodate for people with a different type of need?,” asked Chip Boyles, executive director of the TJPDC.
For instance, the alliance could weigh in on infrastructure issues to make sure the needs of older residents are taken into consideration as growth occurs. For example, will pedestrian crossings be safe for those who may not be able to move as fast?
“What an 18-year-old might be able to do in crossing the street may not look like what an 80-year-old needs to do,” Keane said. She said a crossing being planned by the county for U.S. 250 on Pantops will have a pedestrian refuge.
“Pantops has the largest percentage of seniors anywhere in the county because of all of the different senior apartments and assisted living facilities,” Keane said. “You have to consider that they probably aren’t going to make it across all four or six lanes of traffic.”
Keane said the partnership with the TJPDC has expanded outreach efforts.
“So much of our advocacy is trying to better help planning commissions, cities and counties think about seniors when they’re thinking about their policies,” Keane said, adding the Alliance seeks to build partnerships to put the issue center-forward.
Boyles said outlying counties may able to help address affordability issues and other needs that can’t be handled solely in Charlottesville and the urban ring of Albemarle.
“I think that’s why the regional aspect of this is so important,” Boyles said. “There may be some of these needs that just are going to be tough to meet in Charlottesville or the urban ring of Charlottesville.”
Keane said the Charlottesville Area Alliance is intended to be a singular voice for aging issues, as well as an advocate and clearinghouse for resources.
“It’s about being age-friendly,” Keane said. “The point is that we want an intergenerational community … We know what attracted the millennial generation is what attracts baby boomers. It’s not an either-or situation.”
For instance, the TJPDC is about to launch an update of its long-range transportation plan and the alliance could help attract more seniors to get involved.
“Because older people normally have more time to devote, some of our most active committee members are over 50,” Boyles said. “Even for them, they don’t necessarily comment as an older person. They just happen to be citizens with more time on their hands.”
Keane said the alliance will not take positions. Boyles said the idea is not to hire more staff but to better coordinate those who deal with aging issues.
“Right now, there is a whole area of silos that are either issue-centric or project-centric,” he said.