At their July 1st meeting, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution creating a new Commission on Aging. The resolution, sponsored by District 1 commissioner Jason Maciejewski, establishes an 11-member commission made up of community members and gerontology professionals to advise the Board on issues related to Washtenaw County’s rapidly growing senior population. Nearly 18% of Washtenaw County residents are over the age of 60.
“The lifestyles and expectations of older adults today are different than they were even a decade ago. 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, says Maciejewski, “’Creation of a Commission on Aging is an important step forward in identifying the needs of adults age 60 and older in Washtenaw County.”
The establishment of the commission comes after advocacy group “Say Yes to Seniors” presented information at the June Working Session meeting demonstrating a need for an advisory group to ensure that the needs of seniors are considered in the Board’s policy and budget decisions. The commission will be made up of one appointee from each of the county’s nine (9) districts plus one (1) “at-large” member and one (1) county commissioner. Each will serve two-year terms. The group will tackle issues of housing, meal delivery, mental health, social isolation, dementia care and elder abuse among others.
Wendy Smith, executive director of the Dexter Senior Center believes that this is a step in the right direction saying,
“I commend the Washtenaw Board of Commissioners for their commitment to the creation of a Commission on Aging. This is a vital first step in addressing unmet needs, expanding current programs and services, and developing new programs that address emerging needs of our rapidly growing senior population.”
Jim McGuire, Director of Research, Policy and Advocacy for the Area Agency on Aging 1-B and member of “Say Yes to Seniors” adds,
“The formation of a citizen’s Commission on Aging brings Washtenaw County in line with most other counties that recognize that the rapid aging of the population is one of the most significant challenges we are facing. The senior population is growing by approximately 2,500 more people every year, and
there are now more seniors than children under age 18. The new Commission will help assure that senior needs and concerns are factored into county decision-making.”
Bill O-Reilly is the executive director of the Chelsea Senior Center and says,
“It was very gratifying to hear that the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners just approved the Commission on Aging. This is the result of a true team effort to turn this important goal into a reality. Washtenaw County has been blessed with a history of dedicated individuals and organizations working to provide as best as possible for our many senior residents. However, a commission to provide cohesion and a more unified approach is sorely needed and now places Washtenaw County with the majority of the other counties in the state with similar commissions. With our county’s already large number of seniors projected to grow faster than any other segment of the population in the coming years, the creation of this commission ensures that together we will enhance the lives of our vital seniors for decades to come.
Board Chair Jason Morgan praised Commissioners Maciejewski’s leadership in the county establishing the Commission on Aging, saying
“Commissioner Maciejewski has been a passionate advocate for our aging residents and he really took the lead on lifting the voices of our aging residents in Washtenaw County. Establishment of the Commission on Aging wouldn’t have been possible without Commissioner Maciejewski leadership.”