The Central Virginian

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Don’t count us out, senior advocates say

Posted on Thursday, January 25, 2018 at 5:00 am

Audrey Perkins and Clyde Shelton enjoy a craft project on Tuesday at the Betty J. Queen Intergenerational Center. Louisa senior citizens are served by Jefferson Area Board for Aging and the Commission on Aging.

Reports of the death of the Commission on Aging were greatly exaggerated.

The Louisa County Board of Supervisors went so far as to disband the commission in a December meeting, relying on what turned out to be faulty intelligence. After receiving contrary information earlier this month, the board voted on Jan. 16 to reconstitute the group.

In its heyday, the commission was responsible for much of the planning that led to construction of the Betty J. Queen Intergenerational Center, now a focal point for activities for older citizens. But in recent years the commission had trouble recruiting members and suffered from an apparent lack of leadership.

“They passed a resolution, asking to be disbanded, and we just obliged them. It wasn’t our idea,” explained the supervisors’ chairman, Troy Wade (Louisa district) after the board voted 6-0 on Dec. 4 to do away with the commission.

But the commission’s own vote at the end of November had actually resulted in a 3-3 tie. Soon afterwards, some commission members started looking for ways to revive the group. At a meeting on Jan. 3, the commission voted again, and this time the result was to keep the group active.

Jonathan Tustin, a resident of Blue Ridge Shores, is the commission’s president pro tempore. He said the current members feel strongly that the county needs an effective commission to advocate for seniors.

“Our first step is to canvass the members and determine if there is a commitment,” Tustin wrote in an email. “We then will move to recruit volunteers to fill the empty seats.”

The commission had gone astray since the 2016 death of Mary Lou Dickinson, a longtime leader within the group, Wade said. Supervisor Willie Gentry (Cuckoo district) said Barbara Hollins, who had been the group’s president, recently resigned from her post.

The supervisors, some of whom say they have had difficulty finding older residents who want to work on elder issues, appointed two new members to the commission on Jan. 16. They include Cindy Swann (Mountain Road district) and Kathy Swarthout (Cuckoo district). The two women join eight others listed on the county’s website as active members.

Swarthout, who worked for decades as a nurse and still has her license, said she wants to focus on health issues and residents’ lack of access to quality care. (Read the full article in The Central Virginian’s Jan. 25, 2017 issue)

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