About 100 people gathered at the Reston Community Center at Lake Anne on Saturday to discuss aging in Reston, or more accurately, living in Reston for a Lifetime.
All across the United States, communities are grappling with the reality of an aging population that wishes to stay in its neighborhoods and its homes. Official and unofficial groups are looking for ways to make that possible.
The Aging in Reston initiative is a grassroots effort, bringing together diverse members of the community with a common vision.
At the initial planning meetings last fall, the volunteers decided to form working groups. These groups have met over the last six months to discuss, propose and brainstorm on resources, transportation, housing and model development.
At Saturday’s meeting, the working groups made presentations about what they have learned. (Complete details are available in the report on the Aging in Reston website)
One of the key points decided by the working groups was that “Aging in Reston” is not the best description of their purpose.
At the Aging in Reston Farmer’s Market booth on Saturdays, people would say “Not for me, I’m not aging,” or “Not there yet,” shared Steve Gurney, Reston resident, publisher of Guide to Retirement Living Sourcebook and organizer of the initiative.
group needed a name change to capture people, so it is now "Reston for A Lifetime."
Reston is in the unique position of having been developed with that precise concept in mind. One of founder Robert E. Simon’s seven principles for Reston included “that it be possible for anyone to remain in a single neighborhood throughout his life, uprooting being neither inevitable nor always desirable. “
Pat Williams of Graceful Care and part of the resources group, took a moment to highlight a Reston success in the Bishopgate community.
Sounia Cheney of Bishopgate wanted to replicate the neighborhood experience where she grew up in Iran, with neighbors helping neighbors, Williams said. Being email savvy, she started a community email group so that people with needs linked to people who were able to help. She also worked to be inclusive to those not online.
“Resources are not just a phone book or a county service, but the resources we are to each other,” said Williams.
Because of the resources working group efforts, Reston residents can sign up for an “independent living project," a series of classes at RCC in the fall. The resources group also applauded the relaunching of U.S.E (Useful Services Exchange).
Brent DeRobertis, former president of the AARP Dulles Chapter, reported on the efforts of the housing group. DeRobertis said the group heard time and again, in their survey and conversations, “Is there a way I can stay?”
He said that creative solutions in universal design and adaptations to existing homes mean that seniors can stay in their homes, safely, for longer. But there are still many housing challenges for seniors.
The housing group says it needs o concentrate on advocacy and education about resources and aging in place.
The transportation group’s progress was outlined by Bonnie Whyte. She said that many seniors feel isolated when they cannot drive.
The transportation group studied the various options available to seniors and says it needs to find ways to share what they learned with the senior community.
In partnership with the Reston Museum, the transportation group brought the recent county program on “How to Ride the Bus” (complete with bus) to Reston and expects to repeat the event again.
Whyte also said they are learning from Shepherds Center in Vienna (which already serves South Reston with a ride program) and hope to emulate that program in other parts of Reston.
Gurney said that the model development group realized that no single model would fit our community. The model development group’s biggest concern was that the “disconnectedness among neighbors has given us a generational divide.”
Reintegrating the senior community to the rest of Reston would enable elders would be again seen as important members of the community, Gurney said.
Going forward, the old working groups have morphed in to these new groups, Gurney said:
- Neighborhood networks: Creating meaningful connections right where you live. Pilot programs in working group member’s neighborhoods.
- Advocacy: A focused voice for the future, being heard on key issues
- Projects: Projects are as wide ranging as playgrounds for a lifetime to establishing a HelpLine. The Working Group is open to all recommendations and suggestions
- Sustainability: Support Reston for a Lifetime to help us move forward. Support can come in many forms: volunteers, partnerships, fundraising, word of mouth.
“We are making Reston a better place for a lifetime," he said. "We are not asking for a lifetime commitment.”
Reston for A Lifetime meetings are held the second Wednesday of the month. All are welcome.