SUPPORT FOR SENIORS: Q&A
Which programs for seniors do you support?
I strongly support The Senior Initiative, which has enabled the county to support a broad array of services critical for Montgomery County seniors. As your next County Executive, I would continue to prioritize funding for existing programming. I would also push for increasing our capacity in issues of housing, employment, health, and transportation. While the county already does a great deal, not everything is at the scale that matches community needs.
As you may know, the coming budget is based on assumptions of reduced revenues, and the County Executive has instructed departments to reduce expenditures accordingly. Even beyond this coming year revenues will be constrained, and needs are only going to rise. But I will push hard to ensure that essential services for seniors’ quality of life are maintained. I believe my financial plan would help ensure that we address the needs of seniors.
How will you help seniors age in place?
I have supported deferring increases in property taxes for older adults, based on income guidelines; people should not be taxed out of their homes as a result of appreciation. I also support programs that can assist people with home repairs and energy efficiency upgrades. People should not be forced to move if they are unable to perform maintenance or to replace aging systems in their homes; I want to make sure remaining in one’s house is an affordable option.
But the ability to age in place requires more than just affordable housing; it requires the ability to maintain an engaged life with connections to friends, family, and places and events in the community that foster a sense of belonging and engagement. Access to transportation, recreational activities, and programs that assist with chores, maintenance issues, and other living conditions at home are all important to maintaining people’s quality of life in their communities. Health services are important, too, and I am encouraged by a program the county recently initiated to provide monitoring and follow-up services to seniors who have called ambulances when less intensive assistance may have addressed their medical conditions and/or medication requirements. As a result of this creative program, seniors are getting more personal attention more frequently and the county has seen reduced calls for ambulances - the program has both improved services and helped the county control costs.
Lastly, I think that multi-generational centers (such as the one in Gaithersburg) and the village idea (I’ve seen it in action around Takoma Park and Silver Spring) are important innovations; these models are clearly appreciated by seniors who avail themselves of the services they offer and carry a benefit for everyone.
Many seniors face transportation challenges; what would you do to address them?
I developed the plan for a bus rapid transit (BRT) system and have been working hard to make it a reality for a decade. I would continue to work to expand BRT so that it can provide more mobility throughout the county. I am particularly interested in addressing what transportation experts call the “first mile/last mile problem,” which is critically important for older members of the community. I am committed not only to ensuring that we have a reliable and capable transit system, but also to examining emerging ideas that can help ensure that people who want to use transit can get from their houses to transit stops and from transit stops to their destinations.
Outside of the transit system, the county has in the past provided resources to service organizations to help them acquire and operate transportation resources, and I think these resources have been used effectively. The county has already adopted regulations requiring a large increase in handicap-accessible taxis, too; I would support similar requirements for Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing services. I would also support requiring training for service providers.