A comment by a gentleman attending a recent free summer concert at Mason District Park focused on senior citizens. The performers played a lot of Beatles, Rolling Stones, and other music from the 60s and 70s, much to the delight of the mostly older audience. The gentleman’s comment, thanking me for scheduling “music for us senior citizens,” highlights, perhaps, opportunities, as well as gaps, for programs and services available to older residents.
Fairfax County anticipates a substantial increase – 19 percent – in its overall 50+ population between now and 2030. During that same period, the over 65 population is expected to increase by 51 percent, and the 70+ population by 55 percent. Clearly, county residents are living longer and, for many, healthier lifestyles are helping support that increase. Nearly a quarter of county households now include older adults.
A recent meeting of the Board of Supervisors’ 50+ Committee focused on an ongoing trends analysis by graduate students at George Mason University. Topics included community engagement, housing, safe and healthy communities, services for older adults and family caregivers, and transportation. Internet access, age friendly employment, and volunteerism ranked high as items for further study and opportunity. Housing affordability and accessibility (everything on one floor, wider doors and hallways, for example) are worthy of additional research, the students noted, and they also highlighted the county’s tax relief program as an option to help senior citizens stay in their homes. Active living – exercise, recreation, nutrition – along with more walkable areas as part of the transportation network, also provide opportunities for a variety of programs.
Sadly, financial exploitation of older adults also is an ongoing trend. Fairfax County detectives reported that vulnerable senior residents can be victims of their own family members, or persons who, by telephone, letter, or email, may pose as family members, and gain access to accounts or cash transfers in the thousands of dollars. There were 1751 reports of financial crimes against older adults in 2015. As in past years, most of the crimes were fraud by impersonation, credit card/ATM fraud, confidence games, and larceny of checks and credit cards. Interestingly, the majority of crimes reported affected the 50 – 69 age group. Rather than feel embarrassed, contact the police immediately if something doesn’t seem right about a financial transaction.
The trends analysis also noted an increasing need for caregiving. While some paid providers are engaged, caregiving in Fairfax County predominately is the responsibility of family and friends. The “typical” caregiver is a 49-year-old married female caring for an older female relative, while also working full-time. The 50+ committee will be looking at current, future, and long term needs for caregivers, and how to address them, in the coming year.
There are many opportunities for older adults in Fairfax County. The free summer concerts, held at various venues across the county, are but one type of activity. The county’s Older Adults webpage, www.fairfaxcounty.gov/olderadults, can help you find services and programs, as well as links to other county web pages of interest to senior citizens. Fairfax County treasures its older residents. They helped build the outstanding neighborhoods we all enjoy every day.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]