Senior Center Director
Arlington County Department of Parks & Recreation
2017 VRPS Senior Resource Group Chair-Elect
We Convened, We Conferred, We Concurred –
2017 Senior Resource Group Annual Conference
“Parks and recreation is an important piece of the solution for older adults.”
Lesha Spencer-Brown, NRPA
In the middle of fall foliage tours, pumpkins festivals and other programs that keep our constituents busy, we take time to improve our skills and learn as much as we can. That’s how we live inspired and focused as empowered professionals. So on a sunny September day in Reston, VA, the VRPS Senior Resource Group hosted recreation professionals from across the state to learn from experts in the fields of aging and recreation.
Our mission for the day was to provide information and tools that would empower our colleagues in their day to day responsibilities and in their careers. VRPS 2017 President LaTanya Turner opened the conference by talking about her experiences working with older adults. Like many of us, she admired their accomplishments, experiences and was inspired by their stories.
There were many highlights from SRG conference. Miki Goerdt, LCSW from Arlington County Department of Human Services, delved into the underlying factors that can affect the interactions we have with our customers. As one participant points out “she gave great information to be used at work and in one’s personal life.” Marti Bailey from Sibley Hospital analyzed the nuances and power of the words we use and the misunderstanding they create when we unknowingly use ageist language. Her session inspired one member of her audience to “be a champion of change for how I and others around me use words.”
The keynote speech, delivered by Lynn A. Reid and several members of her team, profiled the incredible gains and findings of the Loudoun County Area Agency on Aging especially in the area of recruiting and retaining high quality volunteers to work at their various senior centers.
In the afternoon, representatives from Loudoun County and the National Council on Aging focused on tools and skills that help improve our programming. Catherine Motivans, Accessibility Services Manager for Loudoun County, tackled the iceberg of cross cultural understanding. With the rapid demographic changes occurring in Loudoun County as the centerpiece of her presentation, Ms. Motivans provided the audience with skills they could apply to build language awareness and serve patrons with limited English abilities.
Brandy Bauer and Hayoung Kye demonstrated the various features of the National Council on Aging’s Aging Mastery Program©. Designed to help older adults make the most of their longevity, this tool also provides materials and information that can help each individual to create his or her own playbook.
While we work in different jurisdictions there are many workplace factors we all have in common. We all agreed that our populations are becoming more diverse and how we navigate that change will determine the success of our programs. We all have customer service challenges. The three major groups that continue to impact our work are baby boomers, culturally diverse populations and older, more frail seniors. All which makes professional development so important.
One source you should check out is the NRPA blog about healthy aging initiatives. We all know someone who is an older adult and we all know how important socializing and recreation are to our communities no matter what age. Lesha Spencer-Brown, who wrote the blog agrees with us: “older adults are the pillars of our communities. We cannot claim to improve community health without factoring in the health of older adults and making them a priority. Many programs and services currently offered for older adults need to be more robust and address multiple factors that affect their health and wellbeing.” This increased awareness is probably a result of two things, the increased numbers of the retirees moving into our areas and the awesome work we all do every day. As the risk of sounding cliché, I do believe that we (recreational professionals who work with older adults) are turning a corner. One way to continue the progress is to keep the conversation going. What recommendations would you give to the decision makers in your agency for healthy aging initiatives that can be implemented in your agency today or in the near future?