Advocating for the Aging Community in Henrico

by Emily Atkinson, Advocate for the Aging, Division of Fire

The Henrico County Advocate for the Aging was established in 2017 to assist in fulfilling the needs of Henrico County’s aging population. In July 2021, the Advocate for the Aging position was moved from the Department of Human Resources to the Division of Fire to make the role more accessible for the community. Since then, the office has continued to serve older adults by providing information and referral services, developing programs and community events, and serving as the subject matter expert on aging-related issues within the Henrico County Government.

The new Advocate for the Aging, Emily Atkinson, MPH, CHES, was hired that same month and quickly got to work serving the residents of Henrico County. In this position, Emily has helped over 300 residents through information and referral services and aided over 600 residents through programming and community events. When residents call Emily, she quickly gets to work deciphering which resource or services would be the best fit for their particular situation. She knows that not all cases are identical, and each individual who calls receives unique and tailored advice.

The Advocate for the Aging office has attempted to strengthen community programming through purposeful and targeted program development that genuinely meets the needs and wants of the senior population in Henrico County. Since July 2021, programs have included:  a “Navigating Senior Services” Library Tour, a Senior Safety Day, a Falls Prevention Fall Festival, a Caregiver Lunch and Learn Series, a Holiday Party, a Winter Emergency Preparedness Day, an Intergenerational Valentine’s Day Party, a Healthy Heart Seminar, and the Annual Senior and Caregiver Expo.

The Advocate for the Aging Office has also revamped the Henrico Ambassador Program for Seniors (HAPS) by transitioning the program from an annual event into a club for seniors that meets monthly. The new HAPS program serves as an opportunity for older Henrico residents to become ambassadors for their communities. These ambassadors attend monthly meetings, learn about available resources in the Henrico community, distribute information on resources and services to other community members, and give feedback on aging services in Henrico County. HAPS meetings occur the third Wednesday of each month from 10 am – 11 am and rotate between each area library every month to make attendance accessible across the county.

Next month, the Advocate for the Aging Office will have a Brain Health and You! Conference for older adults and their caregivers on April 19, 2022, at the Deep Run Recreation Center from 10 am – 1 pm. There will be educational presentations in the morning, and then the event will transition into a vendor fair with resources for seniors related to dementia prevention and dementia care. Presenters will include individuals from the Alzheimer’s Association and Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU Gerontology will also be offering brain health screenings at the event to see if individuals are at-risk for cognitive decline.