Funds for brick-and-mortar Senior Wellness Center included in Council-approved budget

By:
Karen Zuckerstein, (Acting) Chair, Ward 3 Democrats and NNV Board Member

The budget approved last week includes funds to plan and design a physical Senior Wellness Center for wards 2 and 3.  Finally! Ward 3 has the highest concentration of seniors in the District but lacks a brick-and-mortar Senior Wellness Center. Councilmember Cheh secured funds for this purpose, responding to resolutions from all six Ward 3 ANC’s calling for a feasibility study that laid the groundwork for a physical Senior Wellness Center in Ward 3.

The need for a Ward 3 Senior Wellness Center has come up every few years. The last push resulted in establishing AroundTownDC in 2019, a wellness program with a website integrating information on activities for seniors in wards 2 and 3. Having participated in several classes, I applaud the high-quality programming sponsored by AroundTownDC.

So, how did the more recent push come about? Last October, the Ward 3 Democrats sponsored a panel discussion on the challenges facing older adults. Panelists included Sally White, who had just retired as executive director for Iona Senior Services; Stephanie Chong, executive director of Northwest Neighbors Village, and Anita Bonds, Councilmember and Chair of the committee with responsibility for aging issues.

When asked about the need for a Senior Wellness Center in ward 3, the panelists stated unequivocally that a physical senior wellness center was still needed. A physical center would provide a gathering space and also have a permanent core staff that could observe changes in people over time. A physical center would also offer the opportunity to co-locate other services for seniors. Most importantly, it would combat social isolation—a serious problem (more than half of DC’s seniors live alone) that is linked to both cognitive and physical decline.

Following that event, I put together a meeting with Councilmember Cheh and advocates on senior issues. As we started to lay out the case for a Senior Wellness Center, Councilmember Cheh jumped in to explain to us why it was important to get this done now!

The expected development projects in the ward create opportunities to incorporate a Senior Wellness Center. Moreover, the number of older adults will continue to grow significantly in the U.S. over the next three decades. Nationally, the population 85 and over is expected to double by 2040. We need to have institutions and services in place to respond to this growth.

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