A County for a Lifetime
Montgomery County is a wonderful place to live. Over the years, the county has conducted many surveys to measure resident satisfaction. The results are consistently positive: 85 percent or more are satisfied. Except for one group - our older residents (those over 60 years of age). The County’s 2019 survey found just 43 percent of respondents viewed Montgomery County as a good or excellent place to retire, below the national benchmark.1 More than half of the county’s older adults plan to leave.
Older adults are a critical part of the fabric of our county. The U.S. Census tells us that every day, Montgomery County gains about 20 older residents! Our current population of older residents of 205,000 will increase to 315,000 by 2040.2 We must create an environment for older residents to thrive so more will choose to remain here as they age. Older adults contribute to the county’s high quality of life as employees, volunteers, engaged citizens, customers, faith leaders, parents, grandparents and friends.
It will take effective leadership to ensure that our county is a place that is age-friendly, welcoming older residents to age-in-place with dignity and vitality. I will provide the necessary leadership to focus on our rapidly growing and increasingly diverse older population. We will build and sustain a community that values its aging population.
Agenda for a Decade
We need a clear, comprehensive action plan to unite us with shared goals. Not just words, but concrete policy, budget, and legislative recommendations with specific deadlines to ensure accountability by county government. Working with the Commission on Aging, I will convene stakeholders at a Summit on Aging to construct an inclusive plan that brings public, non-profit, faith, business communities and ethnic leaders to ensure our County has an age-friendly agenda for the next decade with an Aging 10-Year Plan. The last time the county held a Summit on Aging was 2015.3
A Strong Senior Economy
A wise county recognizes the economic benefits to the community from retaining our older adults. In 2015, $7.6 trillion of economic value nationally was attributed to the older adult population.4 Older Montgomery County residents have an enormous positive impact on Montgomery County’s economy, which we can not afford to lose. We must provide more job opportunities and reduce the increasing everyday costs that make it difficult to live here.
As part of my effort to Build a Strong Montgomery County Brand5 around buying local, we will work with county-based businesses to provide special attention to the aging community with discounts and a concerted marketing campaign.
I will develop more programs that increase and support volunteer opportunities for older residents and I will promote an intergenerational culture that welcomes older residents as “volunteer partners” in the schools and community centers, as well as high school students volunteering with older residents - especially in the areas of technology and the environment.
We will also support volunteers in senior villages and other nonprofit organizations that support family caregivers making it possible for residents to age in place. I will expand the creative Senior Fellowship program within county government and the nonprofit community. Senior fellows offer a lifetime of experience, talent and wisdom to county government operations.
We can be more creative, and we don’t have to look far for models. In Alexandria, Virginia, the city partnered with a developer to build 64 affordable housing units on top of a new fire station7, including specific added noise-blocking materials to mitigate fire truck noise.
Providing affordable housing as well as addressing other cost of living challenges, is a critical challenge for the future of Montgomery County.
Housing costs are too often the single largest expense aging residents face: 20.9 percent of county residents age 75 to 84 and 27.4 percent of residents age 85 and older are severely burdened by their housing costs6, meaning they spend more than half of their monthly incomes on housing.
Montgomery County should aggressively look for opportunities to build senior affordable housing. I will direct the county’s Department of General Services to identify county-owned land and county-owned facilities where senior affordable housing will be built.
Doing these things will create a more inclusive community and reduce the epidemic of isolation and loneliness, which has worsened during the pandemic. The Commission on Aging has advised that this has resulted in higher rates of serious depression and mental health disorders among older adults.8 In short, I will act to provide opportunities for older adults to be included in the blessings of Montgomery County life and reduce the tragedy of isolation and loneliness.
Engaged and Informed
During my hundreds of conversations with older residents, I often hear they did not know about existing programs and that too many of them and their friends feel isolated and lonely. I will use county and community resources to increase outreach and information targeted to older residents. In addition to more websites, we need more printed materials in multiple languages available in our libraries, regional centers, senior villages, the faith community, and nonprofits - especially ones that represent underrepresented minority communities. We will expand access to technology and training.
Transportation is a challenge for most residents in the county. I will continue to promote public transportation with free public transit, more efficient bus routes, and a system that residents know they can rely on.
There is a major gap in assisted transportation for older residents who need help using transportation. I will develop a public-private partnership that provides on-demand assisted transportation so that our more vulnerable older population can get where they need to go and work with senior village organizations on an annual stipend so they are better supported in the critical trips to medical appointments, grocery stores, and more they already provide.
For too long, the county has deferred and delayed critical sidewalk projects that connect aging residents to nearby shopping centers, doctor’s offices, and transit stations. We have an $82.2 million backlog in sidewalk repairs9 that my administration will address aggressively.
Safe and Secure
Everyone deserves to live in a safe and secure community. Few communities can compete with the safety that exists here in Montgomery County. Yet we must be vigilant, especially for those who prey upon older residents.
As County Executive, I will fully support our police department and partner with other agencies including the State’s Attorney in preventing fraud and elder abuse. I will maintain the highest quality fire services with a heavy emphasis upon fire and accident prevention and I will support our ambulance service assuring that response times are better than the national standard.
Health and Vitality
We will maintain well-trained county health and social services staff, support ethnic and cultural health initiatives, and partner with senior villages, non-profit and senior facilities. We will strengthen the network of senior centers in the county, adding more where the aging population requires and in long underserved areas such as Poolesville.
Few things contribute more to good health among older people than good nutrition. The Montgomery County Food Council estimates more than 100,000 county residents are at risk of hunger.10 Many are older individuals. There are many reasons that contribute to food insecurity: inadequate income, lack of access to stores, reduced ability to prepare nutritious meals, depression, and isolation.
The Food Council recommends greater access to prepared foods and improvements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. They also recommend Nutrition Resource Navigators to connect county residents with food resources. As County Executive, I will focus resources on partnerships and programs that address the nutritional needs of older residents as well as the underlying causes for their food insecurity.
Over the past 11 years, county government has increased property taxes twice, hiked energy and recordation taxes once each, and has regularly increased annual fees for stormwater, trash and recycling, parking, and other fees that results in Montgomery County residents facing some of the highest rates of per-capita fees in the state.11
The burden placed on our older residents is unsustainable. I will not increase your taxes and, over time with a healthy economy, I hope to lower the energy tax and other annual fees.
Rising Prescription Drug Costs
I spent my business career in health care providing affordable medications to millions of Americans. I want to do the same for Montgomery County seniors.
As County Executive, I will create a countywide medication management program, “Ask a Pharmacist” to give every senior access to free life-enhancing, cost-saving medication evaluations. Seniors would be invited to sign-up for a medication evaluation at retirement communities, senior centers or other community centers throughout the county.
They would be able to bring their medications and medical history to a licensed pharmacist for a face-to-face evaluation for potential harmful drug interactions, over medication, unnecessary or duplicated medications, cheaper generic and alternative medications, and co-pay assistance programs. Upon completion, the pharmacist and resident could call their doctor to review the personalized medications list recommending ways to lower their medication costs and enhance their health.
Older residents of Montgomery County can expect that I will promote an inclusive community in which they can age with their friends and family with vitality and dignity. I will pursue policies that will change the trend of older residents leaving to more remaining in their homes and communities.