How Much Have We Lost?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fairfax County's Exploding Senior Population

As original owners in one of the first subdivisions in Mount Vernon dating to 1941, my grandparents were at the leading edge of this trend. As original and subsequent owners from Waynewood, Fort Hunt, Stratford, Hollin Hills, Riverside Estates, Mount Zephyr, etc. started to build, so did the senior population in Mount Vernon.

For the last decade, the Mount Vernon area has been recognized as the home to the largest concentration of elderly in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area. In the past session, I introduced several modest budget amendments to provide seed funding for several new programs for seniors:


  • $10,000 to Mount Vernon At Home to purchase a van to transport seniors to appointments, activities, and daily needs.

  • $5,000 to Fairfax County for its Senior Center Without Walls Program
I also issued a press release that you can read here - The Dixie Pig, 2011 Budget Amendments: U.S. 1 Transit Study, Seniors, Tourism & Helping Virginia's Businesses. All of these amendments were rejected. Recently these efforts were the subject of a Letter to the Editor in the Mount Vernon Gazette that is below. Thank you to Suzanne Young for focusing on these issues.

Ever-Growing Senior Population
Thursday, March 31, 2011

To the Editor:

A fall can be a catastrophic event to a senior citizen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report falls as the number one cause of injury deaths in the senior population. Yearly in the United States more than one third of adults 65 years of age and older have a fall; 15,800 people 65 and older died from injuries related to unintentional falls in 2005. Moreover, the incidence of fall-related deaths in the senior population has been steadily increasing over the past 10 years.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the senior population will more than double to 89 million by the year 2050. With the ever-growing size of the senior population, the fall numbers could increase drastically in the not so distant future.

Physical activity is a critical facet of health across an individual’s lifespan. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states, "Being active is one of the most important steps that Americans of all ages can take to improve their health." Appropriate physical activity among the senior population can aid in a multitude of health issues. Senior citizens who engage in regular physical activity are more inclined to have a stable weight, lowered blood pressure, improved cognitive functioning, reduced osteoporosis, controlled diabetes, reduced heart disease, improved mood, improved arthritis, and less falls.

According to the CDC, senior citizens who participate in appropriate physical activity are less likely to suffer a devastating fall. On Jan. 20, Del. Scott Surovell announced his introduction of six amendments to the 2010-2012 Virginia budget. These amendments include a $10,000 allocation in state grant money to Mount Vernon At Home for the purchase of a vehicle and a $5,000 appropriation to the Fairfax County Senior Center Without Walls program. These amendments could make a difference in the important work of these two innovative endeavors.

Mount Vernon At Home is a nonprofit organization providing its members assistance to live independently in their homes for as long as possible. Transportation to recreational, educational, and social activities is one example of the numerous services offered to its members. The Senior Center Without Walls program is a public-private venture between the Fairfax County government, faith communities, and local businesses. The program provides recreational, educational, and social activities to senior citizens without the use of an existing senior center or constructing new facilities.

The senior population is growing at an immensely fast rate and the health needs of this population are growing just as fast. Initiatives such as Mount Vernon At Home and the Senior Center Without Walls program can assist our senior population with access to recreational, educational, and social activities. Specifically, these endeavors can provide access to physical activity, a pivotal key to improving the health and reducing the number of falls in our Mount Vernon senior population.

Susanne M. Young

Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist Master of Public Health Student, George Mason University

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