City aims to retain older population

The City Council established a task force April 8 to identify and facilitate ways for the city’s senior residents to remain in their homes as they grow older.

The College Park Aging-In-Place Task Force will consist of eight residents and two councilmembers. The group hopes to identify existing city resources for seniors, pinpoint the aging population’s needs and explore potential strategies the city could use to fill that gap.

“This is something I have been wanting to bring to our city since I started as a member of City Council,” said Denise Mitchell, District 4 councilwoman. “We have many seniors in our community, and many of them would like to stay within their own home as they age.”

Mitchell expects committee members to be appointed by June and the task force to begin moving forward in July. In addition to pooling its own resources, the task force expects to bring in experts from organizations such as MetLife and AARP.

“We have a growing number of senior citizens in this city, and they don’t really have much in terms of facilities or care,” said Fazlul Kabir, District 1 councilman. “The task of this task force is to find out their needs and then come up with ways to meet them however possible.”

Because the task force’s actions are dependent on the needs it identifies, the committee’s goals are broad. However, a number of similar programs in the area offer a model for the fledgling group, such as nonprofit Hyattsville Aging in Place.

“The City Council didn’t establish us; a group of residents did,” said Lisa Walker, the organization’s chairwoman. “We have older people living in the city who have lived here for a while and aren’t interested in options like moving to Florida, assisted living or a totally senior community — most of us want to stay in our own homes.”

Founded in early 2011, the Hyattsville program hosts social events, runs informational programs, and sends birthday and condolence cards. Its volunteers provide seniors with services ranging from grocery shopping to snow shoveling to rides to the doctor.

“In our first year, we ran about 153 errands,” Walker said. “The bulk of the work is done by residents.”

According to Walker, the city of Hyattsville’s only contribution to the organization has been hiring a senior services coordinator in 2012. This is a significant way the programs will differ, as College Park’s government established this city’s task force.

“We’re looking at some possibilities of grant assistance from the state to establish a senior community,” Mitchell said. “We want support for the task force at the county and state level.”

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