Local government, university and other partners came together last week at Carol Woods Retirement Community to start mapping the next steps to a better community for aging residents.
The county has drafted a Master Aging Plan, or MAP, every five years since 2000. The details of the next plan – MAP 2017-22 – will be worked out early next year and could come to a public hearing in April. The Orange County Board of Commissioners could consider adopting the plan in May.
Expanding some services, such as public transportation, could take some creativity, Commissioner Barry Jacobs said. But what’s good about planning in five-year increments is you can take advantage of new ideas and successful programs in other communities, he said.
“Or we have people working in our community that don’t know that people want to utilize their services – they feel like they’re operating in isolation or they’re not appreciated or they have no resources. If you can get them to the table, then we can suddenly change the whole complexion of the problem,” Jacobs said.
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Janice Tyler, director of the Orange County Department on Aging, noted one in eight people in Orange County in 2010 were over 60. Now, it’s one in six people, and the number could grow to one in four by 2050.
While the first two MAPs met many challenges, Tyler said, the current MAP was more successful, wrapping up 16 years in which they built partnerships, two new senior centers, and more transportation options.
The Aging Transitions team now helps older adults decide whether to age in place or find an alternate living arrangement, while the Project EngAGE Leadership program gives them more ways to stay involved, she said. Yvette Garcia Missri, Project EngAGE coordinator, noted that volunteers contributed over 7,800 service hours between July 2015 and June 2016.
Last year, Orange County also launched a million-dollar, grant-funded Dementia Friendly Business Campaign that trains businesses and agencies to support residents suffering from dementia and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. The new Orange County CARES – Caregiver Awareness, Respite, Education and Support – program offers support and connections to those caring for loved ones affected by dementia.
The county joined the World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities and Communities Program this year and its affiliate AARP Network program operated by the American Association of Retired Persons.
Last year, Orange County also launched a million-dollar, grant-funded Dementia Friendly Business Campaign that trains businesses and agencies to support residents suffering from dementia and other intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Both programs provide ideas and standards for housing, transportation, social structures, employment and other services to address aging populations. Orange County is the first participating community in North Carolina; there are 123 communities nationwide.
MAP 2017-22 planning started this summer with 14 resident focus groups and more than a thousand surveys. Two community meetings were held this fall, and 26 interviews conducted with 34 local and regional leaders, health care providers, and nonprofit and religious organizations.
The largest group of participating residents were ages 65 to 74, lived in urban areas, and earned between $25,000 and $50,000 a year, statistics show.
Dementia was their top concern, said Melissa Hunter, an intern with the Department on Aging. Other concerns included financial and physical stability to deciding between assisted living and aging at home.
About a third of the community doesn’t know what’s available, she said, making better communication critical.
The group gathered last week for the MAP report and small-group discussions were asked to consider five core needs – from housing to employment and social connections – and the partners with the expertise to find solutions. The final list of partners will be assigned to work groups in January to study each goal.
“We’re going to ask everyone to look within their own agencies at what they know already exists ... so that we’re not reinventing the wheel,” said Mary Fraser, Aging Transitions program administrator. “We want to build on what already exists.”
Orange County officials have identified overarching goals for the next five-year Master Aging Plan:
▪ More diverse, affordable and conveniently located housing options
▪ More disability-accessible housing
▪ Help more adults maintain and care for their homes as they age
▪ Better long-term care options
▪ Safe, well-maintained rental housing
Transportation, outdoor spaces and buildings
▪ Improve and expand current options (Orange Public Transportation, EZ Rider, volunteer transportation)
▪ Help residents who give up driving learn how to use public transportation
▪ Better sidewalks, pedestrian crossings and routes
▪ More outdoor gathering spaces and community gardens
▪ Multi-generational playgrounds
▪ Provide more public restrooms and benches
Social participation, respect and inclusion
▪ Build more neighborhood and community connections
▪ More free activities throughout the community
▪ More affordable and accessible educational, enrichment and cultural activities
▪ More multi-generational social opportunities
Civic participation and employment
▪ Help with post-retirement training and work opportunities
▪ More opportunities to volunteer and share their skills, interests and wisdom
▪ Address age discrimination, compensation and financial concerns
▪ More support for caregivers
Community support and health services
▪ Better quality adult daycare and in-home, long-term and respite care
▪ Improve access to physical and mental health care services
▪ More dementia-friendly public spaces
▪ Better access to food, especially in rural areas
▪ Provide information about death with dignity and green burials