Connecting seniors to resources and communities that will improve their quality of life
Our world is facing changing demographics as the baby boomer generation ages, resulting in a much larger population of senior citizens everywhere, as well as in our own community. The changing landscape means more physically and mentally active older adults with an improved sense of well-being and longer life expectancy. Communities need to expand their support services, and senior services-related businesses must rise to meet the growing demand in the marketplace.
Fauquier County and the Rappahannock Rapidan region anticipated these changes over twenty years ago thanks to the foresight of staff at Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services Aging Services department. Starting out small and informally, Sallie Morgan, then Director of Aging Services at RRCS, convened a group concerned with seniors in the community. Over time, it became what is now Aging Together, a partnership-driven agency that helps our region prepare for this shift to make sure older residents will have the services and support they need. A generous grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation when they incorporated put the tiny organization on solid ground and allowed it to grow. Jan Selbo, Director of Fauquier County Social Services (retired) joined the Board of Directors early on and continues to be an active member of Aging Together today.
Selbo said, “Within social services we have a responsibility for adult protection. We could see the change in demographics coming and with so little state and federal support for a program like this, we knew we had to do it ourselves here.” Wanting to be able to act regionally, they reached out to agencies in Culpeper, Madison, Rappahannock, and Orange counties to collaborate.
Additionally, given the differences in needs from county to county, they recognized that acting on the local level was crucial. Aging Together works through local teams, believing that locals are the best people to identify needed services and resources of older members of their population. Composed of volunteers from all sectors of the community including those in aging-related professions, the Fauquier team provides workshops with speakers and roundtable discussions dedicated to seniors and caregivers in the community, addressing topics like dementia, communication strategies, care options, financial planning, scam and fraud awareness, senior safety, and more.
Aging Together would not accomplish its vision without their volunteers. “Our staff consists of four people, with only one who is full time. Our volunteers reach over 150 people. We think about the awesome nature of this all the time,” says Ellen Phipps, Executive Director. “Their persistence, devotion, and tireless work to benefit the older population is sometimes just mind boggling. We simply could not succeed as an agency without them. Just saying thank you seems underwhelming when we consider that our agency’s existence is so dependent on their incredible level of commitment.”
Aging Together’s top three programs
Art of Aging expo:
Aging Together hosts an annual EXPO aimed at older adults, their families, and caregivers. The Expo showcases services, products, businesses, and support groups from the five counties that are important to the senior population. In addition, the Expo provides an opportunity for guidance in navigating the difficult and ever changing healthcare and health services landscape, which confuses many seniors.
5 over 50: Shifting the paradigm
Aging Together is built on the belief that age is not a number, it’s a lifelong process. Every year, Aging Together recognizes one person over the age of 50 from each of the five counties in our region who has consistently, and sometimes quietly, been giving to the community over the course of their lives through both volunteerism and their professional work. “I get goosebumps when I go and I hear all the wonderful contributions people have made. I tear up. It’s so moving to realize what a great resource we have in our older population. It’s all about shifting that paradigm that elderly people are not always the ones who need help, they can give a lot to our communities as well,” Selbo said.
Supporting older adults through COVID-19
The pandemic has created many challenges for everyone, seniors included. Adapting quickly, Aging Together formed programs to support seniors through the crisis. Aging Together’s iPads for Seniors program provides tablets to area nursing homes and assisted living facilities to enable residents to connect with family members. They published a free regional COVID-19 Resource guide with important phone numbers and websites, and they formed the Vaccine Calling program which assists older adults without online access to schedule vaccine appointments.
Partnerships and funding
Approximately 50 percent of Aging Together’s funding is gratefully received from The PATH Foundation. Additional support is provided by county funds, government grants, Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services, Culpeper Human Services, Northern Piedmont Community Foundation, Culpeper Wellness, and individual contributions.