It’s no secret that many communities across the country are actively courting millennials. What’s not as well known is that there are hundreds of urban and suburban municipalities that are wholly dedicated to creating age-friendly environments for America’s older population. One such suburb is Montgomery County, Maryland.
Montgomery County is home to just over 1 million people and that number continues to grow. By the year 2030, more than 25 percent of the county’s residents are expected to be age 60 and older. In anticipation of this increasing demographic, government officials have been working with local leaders for over a decade to ensure the county is designated as a diverse, age-friendly community — a project they’ve coined, A Community For A Lifetime, a place where all residents can thrive and contribute to their neighborhoods as they grow older.
Montgomery County’s age-friendly initiative is not only extensive, it’s also indicative of a global demographic trend. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by the year 2050 the number of people age 60 and over will double, increasing from 1 billion to 2 billion worldwide, and will bolster the need for cities and communities that are age-friendly. WHO defines age-friendly environments as places that “foster health, well-being and the participation of people as they age.” In addition, these spaces should be inclusive, safe and accessible.
In 2015, to further its commitment to satisfying the needs of vital and vulnerable seniors, Montgomery County joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, which is affiliated with WHO’s Age-Friendly Cities And Communities Program. To date, the Network includes 318 localities around the world that are dedicated to the exchange of ideas in order to promote active, healthy ageing and quality living for their older residents. Using the WHO domains and guidelines for age-friendly environments, county officials have instituted critical partnerships throughout the community to establish and focus on the following ten areas:
1. Civic and Social Involvement: Providing an array of opportunities for social, physical and mental interaction
2. Communication and Outreach: The timely dissemination of information about public services and resources for older adults
3. Elder Abuse Prevention: Safeguarding the elderly from maltreatment, abuse and exploitation of all kinds
4. Employment: The fair recruitment and training of adults, ages 50 and older
5. Health and Wellness: Building partnerships with the community to increase health and wellness awareness, and activities for adults who are 55 and older
6. Home and Community-Based Services: Providing residents with the necessary support to age safely and with dignity
7. Housing: Ensuring that older adults have a variety of housing choices and providing assistance for aging-in-place, downsizing, renting or purchasing a new home
8. Planning, Outdoor Spaces, and Buildings: Creating dynamic, accessible indoor and outdoor spaces that enable older adults to stay active and involved in the community
9. Senior Public Safety: Providing protection from those who would take advantage of older adults physically, financially and through the use of technology
10. Transportation and Mobility: Offering transportation options that give older adults choices and flexibility to move around the community safely
By working and planning within these focus areas, Montgomery County has made improvements to existing programs and facilities, as well as introduced many new offerings that meet the unique needs of the community’s senior residents. Currently, the County’s Recreation Department operates six, full-service Senior Centers and 55+ Active Adult Programs that are located throughout the area. Residents can choose from activities such as educational seminars, fitness classes, short trips and field trips, entertainment, and lunch programs. In addition, the county provides transportation specifically for senior residents who wish to participate in these events. Listed below are just some of the other ways in which the county continues to support its ageing and senior residents:
- Montgomery Community College provides tuition waivers for Maryland residents, age 60 and over (the waivers can be used after the regular registration period is over).
- An investigative Elder Abuse Section in the Montgomery County Police Department educates the community and investigates those who commit elder abuse and fraud.
- WorkSource Montgomery, a job-seeker club for residents 50 and older, provides support and advice for resume preparation, networking, and using social media.
- Through partnerships with Holy Cross Hospital and Suburban Hospital, exercise programs are now widely available for senior residents.
- Medication Awareness Day allows senior residents to consult with a pharmacist, turn in unused or unwanted medicine, and receive information about common prescriptions.
- Through the Community First Choice Program, Medicaid covers in-home nursing care for eligible seniors.
- The county provides property tax credits for older homeowners with limited assets and modest savings.
- The county has approved 17 senior housing communities (eight are complete, two are in progress and seven are slated for future construction).
- Through the Park Prescription Program (ParkRx), local doctors issue “prescriptions” for patients to visit nearby, accessible parks for health benefits, enjoyment and activities.
- Representatives from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service visit the homes of seniors to check smoke alarms, correct potential safety risks and work with the homeowners to devise a home-fire escape plan.
Montgomery County officials believe that creating and maintaining an age-friendly environment not only keeps older residents vital and healthy, but it also benefits all residents by creating a safer, more inclusive community. Smithlife Homecare is proud to be a Montgomery County Dementia Friendly Certified Business.
For more information and resources about the county’s age-friendly resources, visit the Montgomery County Senior Website at: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/senior/