Livability for All Ages, Especially Older Adults

Creating a healthy community calls for an Arlington that is more livable for all ages.  We need to be especially responsive to the evolving needs of older adults. After many years, my mom and many of her friends had to ask themselves: “Must I leave my home in order to make ends meet?” Watching my mom struggle to stay in her home inspired me to launch my home maintenance business. 

We need to accommodate the needs of Arlingtonians of all ages, and implement new initiatives to improve housing, walkability, health care access, tax burdens, lifelong education and intergenerational social connections. The gift of increased longevity means that older adults have years of productivity ahead. We should not equate aging with “decline.”

We need a special focus on adults in the 65+  category.  These folks may be in low-, middle- or upper-income brackets; they may be longtime two-earner couples,  widows/widowers,  or couples relying on Social Security to make ends meet.  Many are recently or soon-to-be retirees, thinking about lifestyle changes or right-sizing their homes.  We need to include our older residents in the broader fabric of our county, and bring them into an active conversation.

As a County Board member, I will collaborate with local builders and service providers on fulfilling the needs of older adults. Arlington’s older adults shouldn’t face a hard choice: “Must I leave my home to make ends meet?”  Furthermore, I will:

Encourage and incentivize homeowners and builders to make homes adaptable by creating  flexible spaces to accommodate changing needs and physical abilities, and

  • Ask  County staff and local remodelers to publicize the Virginia Livable Home Tax Credit (LHTC) program, which provides state tax credits for homeowners and licensed contractors to retrofit existing homes for older adults.   
  • Simplify zoning and practical requirements to make it easier for older adults to share their homes and create space for caregivers.
  • Advocate for new, mid-sized housing with a neighborhood scale, tucked into walkable areas along major transportation corridors. Today Arlington has many high-rise condos/apartments and two-story colonials.

Let’s develop The Missing Middle—market-rate bungalows, fourplexes, courtyard apartments, or small-footprint buildings that can satisfy empty-nesters, millennials and others who want a walkable lifestyle close to shops and restaurants.

Continue Arlington's Real Estate Tax Relief (RETR) program, and support options to strengthen it. RETR allows eligible homeowners (low-income aged 65 or over or permanently disabled) to defer their real estate taxes until sale/death of homeowner, or to be forgiven of real estate taxes totally.  Implement the recommendations of the recent citizen review of the RETR to ensure this program is serving the intended target population.

Work tirelessly to make streets more pedestrian-friendly and explore transportation options:

  • Advocate for Safe Streets, making crosswalks more visible, adding pedestrian islands in the middle of busy streets, and shortening the distance to cross busy roads.
  • Enforcing pedestrian right-of-way at street crossings and on trails along I-66 and elsewhere.
  • Support services such as Super Senior Taxi and encouraging companies (ex: Red Top Cab) that provide older adults with discounts or other workable options.
  • Work with developers of self-driving cars and other innovators to explore application here, while carefully monitoring safety, cost-efficiency and logistical issues.

Promote health care and other services that enable aging at home, help fight isolation and support caregivers. I will:

  • Promote nutrition and social connections, such as companies that sponsor employees’ volunteer time to deliver Meals on Wheels.
  • Work with Arlington Neighborhood Village, George Mason University, Virginia Hospital, Goodwin House, innovative startups, and others on new public policy and initiatives to promote older adults’ health.
  • Explore economic development opportunities for services such as right-sizing assistance, care coordinators, and age-in-place home renovations.
  • Support Arlington County services such as adult day programs, nutrition programs, mental health support and personal advocates.

Promote  good quality of life through intergenerational interaction, recreation, art and music, lifelong learning and community participation. Staying physically active, enjoying new experiences, and being part of a social network help all of us as we age. We can:

  • Co-locate senior programs with our schools to leverage the talent and wisdom of older adults to the benefit of young students eager to learn.
  • Design inventive settings that bring older people and younger ones together, such as hosting hackathons where young experts and entrepreneurs partner with older adults to tackle specific community problems.
  • Support Arlington programs (ex: Encore Learning, 55+) that offer appealing classes and experiences for a range of older adults.

People on average are living longer and healthier lives. Let’s make Arlington the place to rethink housing, transportation, and community interaction so that livability increases for all of us as we age.