Alliance strives to make Charlottesville more "age-friendly" community

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- Members of the recently-formed Charlottesville Area Alliance have made it their mission to make the Charlottesville region the most age-friendly community in the country.

The alliance has asked both the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to sign the World Health Organization's commitment to being an age-friendly community.

For years, 82-year-old Gertrude Laury has traveled from Buckingham County, where she lives with her husband, to Charlottesville to meet with other senior citizens at the Jefferson Area Board for Aging's Mary Williams Community Center.

"I just like to come down here and enjoy myself and play bingo and do different things and exercise and all that stuff," said Laury.

The center is just one of the many resources the Charlottesville area has to offer seniors but JABA CEO, Marta Keane, maintains there's always room for improvement.

"They do have things built in, in terms of affordable housing and trying to look at transportation issues but there's a lot of other categories and there're a lot of gaps," said Keane.

According to Keane, in approximately eight years, 25 percent of the population in the Jefferson planning district will be 65 years old or older.

JABA is just one of the 13 local organizations that have come together to form the Charlottesville Area Alliance.

The alliance's goal is to make the region the most age-friendly community in the country.

"We're looking at how each of the different organizations, of which we're so lucky to have so many, can come together around certain issues and come up with ways to solve problems," Keane said.

Keane said she believes social isolation is one of the area's biggest issues, with more than 26 percent of seniors living alone.

"We look at how can transportation be created that will better facilitate coming together and not being isolated," she said."How can there be activities and outdoor spaces and recreation that will allow them to continue to feel engaged."

Keane said making sure to include the senior population in the community should be viewed as an asset, not a burden.

"Everybody is an individual and there's a richness there that it's not just about draining resources, it's contributing as well," said Keane.

"We know we're getting older but we don't have to grow older by doing nothing," said Laury. "We can be helping somebody else down here too."

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