The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday May 25th

New version of aging plan aims to make Orange County more livable for older adults

DTH Photo Illustration. The Orange County Master Aging Plan focuses on providing senior citizens resources regarding racial equity, COVID-19 needs, and other areas.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. The Orange County Master Aging Plan focuses on providing senior citizens resources regarding racial equity, COVID-19 needs, and other areas.

Orange County will be holding several open houses this week to discuss the survey results for its Master Aging Plan.

The plan's main goal is to make Orange County a good place to live and grow old.

Every five years, the Orange County Department on Aging reevaluates the plan to ensure it is meeting the needs of the county's seniors. The previous cycle of the plan began in 2017 and is coming to a close in 2022. 

Each new cycle of the plan starts with community surveys that help guide the development of the aging plan. 

“We've just completed our countywide survey," Janice Tyler, director of the Orange County Department on Aging, said. "Our goal was to get 1,000 responses. We got over that, and so we're thrilled about that.”

The survey results will be shared at community events, Tyler said. Community engagement events will be held this month at the Seymour Center, the Passmore Center, the Hargraves Community Center, the Efland-Cheeks Community Center, the Cedar Grove Community Center and the Rogers Road Community Center.

There will also be a virtual event on Oct. 12.

The Orange County Master Aging Plan is meant to gauge community input on possible improvements to transportation, outdoor spaces, housing, social participation, civic participation and employment, communication and information, respect and social inclusion and community and health services.

Orange County also provides an aging helpline service where seniors and their relatives can call in to inquire about aging-related issues. 

Over the past year and a half, the county's efforts focused, in part, on helping seniors with the difficulties of the pandemic.

Heather Altman, chairperson of the Orange County Advisory Board on Aging, said the county has worked tirelessly to distribute vaccines to seniors as soon as they were approved for public use.

As the world transitions out of the pandemic, Orange County is planning various mask-mandatory social events for seniors, said Bruce Boyd, a member of the management team at Azalea Estates, an assisted living facility. 

“There are several events planned at the YMCA, as well as at the (Seymour Center),” Boyd said. “Sometimes Duke and UNC professors will come in and give lectures. They might talk about traveling, or articles in the National Geographic, or about a film.”

Beyond accessibility, the county also helps elders engage in social services like transportation to and from doctors appointments.

Altman said the plan, as a whole, is a crucial way the county can help ensure that older residents have the resources they need to live a better life.

“The Department on Aging has a range of staff members, social workers and transportation experts,” Altman said. “They can help older adults navigate the social services, whether it's transportation to doctor's appointments, or talking about what they need to live safe at home, or helping them decide when a move might be more successful or a transition might be more helpful.”

The Master Aging Plan is set to begin its next cycle in 2022.

“The Master Aging Plan strives to make Orange County a great place to grow old,” Altman said. “Our central message is that you are not alone.”

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