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Reinventing McLean for Aging Baby Boomers

Creating a safety net so the neighbors can age in place

Fifty years ago McLean was an emerging community of young families where they couldn't build schools and churches fast enough.

Now those young Baby Boomer parents are grandparents who are retiring and who want to stay in the community they know.

Nearly 100 McLean residents spent a gorgeous Saturday afternoon beginning to grapple with the question of how to reinvent a suburban community centered around cars to accommodate Baby Boomers who want to grow old here when they can no longer drive.

"It's a lot easier to find a lot for a toddler” or a playing field for a teenager than services for seniors, said Judy Seiff, president of the Chesterbrook Residences, an assisted living community for seniors, and a daughter caring for her aging mother.

Ten percent of the county's 1 million residents are 65 or older. But in McLean, 17 percent of the nearly 50,000 residents are 65 or older. McLean is the Florida of Fairfax County. Baby Boomers started turning 65 this year and McLean brims with graying Baby Boomers.

“We need to find creative ways to meet the needs of our elderly," Seiff said. "We are sort of like when McLean began -- when we had no schools, athletic leagues, etc."

The audience listened intently as three communities in other parts of Fairfax County explained how they, as grassroots groups, have started to build a safety net to keep their senior neighbors in the neighborhood:

Mount Vernon At Home Village. This is a nonprofit organization that seniors living in 28 communities in the Mount Vernon area of southern Fairfax County can join. Senior pay an annual membership fee and can call one number and arrange services ranging from grass cutting to home repair to transportation to doctors' appointments. All the volunteers delivering services have been through background checks, said full-time executive director Barbara Sullivan.

Their mission: To help residents of the Mount Vernon area live safely, comfortably and confidently in their own homes for as long as possible, in the community they love.

Reston for a Lifetime. A group of concerned citizens and organizations started organizing last year seeking to understand the needs and perceptions of Restonians and help create solutions toward making Reston a great place for people of all ages and abilities.

Mosby Woods VillageMosby Woods is a community of 537 single family homes located just outside of Fairfax City. This is a volunteer village model sponsored by the Mosby Woods Community Association.

"With homeowners finding themselves aging in the home they purchased 50 years ago," the community association "decided to sponsor the creation of an all-volunteer village model" to support their senior neighbors by arranging to get them to doctors' appointments and help with home maintenance.

”Clearly, we need a plan to help support our aging population as they age," said Dranesville Supervisor John Foust, himself an aging Baby Boomer. His office organized a group of citizens headed by the Rev. Jerry Hopkins, who also serves on the board of Chesterbrook Residences, which organized Saturday's forum.

The audience included senior citizens, children caring for elderly parents, those who provide services to seniors and simply the curious.

"This was very worthwhile," said Mimi Coogan of McLean. "There is no central place for information (about senior services). Some people don't know where things are in the community. We need a central place for people to get information." she said.

Laurel Kelley, head of administration and marketing for the Lewinsville Retirement Residences said, "I was pleased. I wasn't sure what to expect. Knowing that others feel the same needs" was helpful, she said.

Martha Gaston, a social worker who works with seniors, said, "I am interested in our community so that I can safely age in McLean. I want to stay because I know what services are available but others don't."

Myles Nienstadt, who is caring from his mother, said, "The biggest need is transportation and how to connect existing services to the people who need them."

What's next? "It's up to the community now for the village community is a community movement," said Hopkins. "We were planting seeds today."

Full Disclosure: McLean Patch is an aging Baby Boomer.

Larry Allen October 17, 2011 at 02:00 PM
A good article on a topic that needs attention. And yet, at a recent meeting in Chesterbrook Woods you would have thought that senior homes promoted herpes, HIV, terrorist attacks, and higher cholesterol for everyone in the surrounding community. This NIMBY attitude is unfortunate and misplaced. Simply put, we would have no nice community to live in today if our elders had't worked hard to establish it. The word "community" implies that they're still included.
Sandgolds October 17, 2011 at 02:15 PM
You captured the overall sense of this forum very well, Ms. Bowman. (I was there.) If I'd been writing it up, though, I'd have included information about the 2 elderly gents who also were on the panel with Ms. Seiff, because they helped dramatize the need, and they also spoke very articulately.
Robert DiLallo October 17, 2011 at 08:40 PM
Our website is assembling first-person writings by Baby Boomers about their experiences. We are also developing a comprehensive timeline, the first installment of which - 1946 - is available for viewing. http://boomersrememberwhen.com/time-line/

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