By the end of the decade, one in four residents in Washtenaw County will be age 60 or over.
“The senior population is growing by approximately 2,500 more people every year,” says Jim McGuire, director of research, policy, and advocacy for the Area Agency on Aging 1-B, “and there are now more seniors than children under age 18.”
In an effort to identify the needs of seniors, and to improve the county’s services for this growing community, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners established a new Commission on Aging.
“The lifestyles and expectations of older adults today are different than they were even a decade ago,” says District 1 Commissioner Jason Maciejewski, who sponsored the resolution that created the commission. “It is important the county understands the expectations of older adults so we can consider the impact of our operations and services as we make policy and approve budgets.”
The formation of the Commission on Aging created a need for a new collaborative to serve in a supportive role to the commission—providing expertise on existing aging services, as well as gaps in specific service sectors as they relate to the needs of seniors and their families.
The Washtenaw County Healthy Aging Collaborative, sponsored by the Washtenaw Health Initiative (WHI) and Area Agency on Aging 1-B (AAA 1B), was formed to serve this purpose. Previously existing groups–including the WHI’s Senior Services workgroup, the Washtenaw Coordinated Funders’ Aging Sector group, and the county’s Blueprint for Aging group–have been included in the collabortive.
The cross-sector collaborative will develop and own a county-side healthy aging strategy and promote age-friendly practices. Each of the collaborative’s members will be an organizing force around specific service areas or domains, such as equity, caregiving, faith communities, housing, nutrition, and more. Domain leaders may also form sub-groups to better coordinate work within specific service areas.
The goal is to keep the main collaborative group smaller—to allow for more strategic action that supports the development and implementation of a county-wide strategy.
The group’s co-chairs are Ann Davis, community member and WHI Steering Committee member and Monica Prince, executive director of the Ypsilanti Senior Center.
The collaborative’s domains and representatives include:
- Case Management: coordination of care through the provision of case-managed health and social services – Representative: Jill Kind, Jewish Family Services
- Homecare and Hospice: home and community based services to support both aging in place and end of life – Representative: Yaja Refitt, St. Joseph Mercy Health System
- Diversity and Equity: ensures an aging justice lens – Representatives: Gloria Edwards, Turner African American Services Council; Alex Gossage, Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living
- Caregiving: represents family caregiving and relevant services – Representative: Amanda Sears, Area Agency on Aging 1B
- Transportation: urban and rural transportation services for seniors – Representatives: Julia Roberts, Western-Washtenaw Area Value Express (WAVE); Robert Williams, Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority
- Housing: senior housing needs and related homelessness in seniors – Representative: Janet Hunko, Housing Bureau for Seniors
- Funder: funding opportunities to address the needs of seniors in our community – Representative: Chris Lemon, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation
- Technology: this domain address technology barriers for seniors – Representative: Decky Alexander, Eastern Michigan University
- Faith-Based: a collection of faith-based perspectives that consider senior related issues – Representative: Mashod Evans, Bethal AME Church
- Senior Centers: connects with an existing group of local senior center directors – Representative: Monica Prince, Ypsilanti Senior Center
- Healthcare and Wellness: approaches to health and wellbeing through a geriatric expertise lens – Representative: Jennifer Howard, Turner Senior Resource Center and Geriatric Center
- Nutrition: brings together key service provisions for senior nutrition – Representative: Marti Lachapell, Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development
- Senior Resources: navigation of resources and referrals to support the needs of older adults – Representative: Kasey Kerr, Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County