Conference Welcome and Keynote

Virginia IS for aging: A national perspective on key issues, challenges and opportunities for Virginia and the nation

Join Bob Blancato, Sandy Markwood, Jim Firman, Karyne Jones, and Dr. Yanira Cruz as they discuss the impact of the pandemic on older adults, their caregivers and their associations. Our panelists, moderated by Bob Blancato, will share their professional and personal perspectives and experiences during the pandemic and talk about what they see for the future for aging service nationally and in Virginia with an emphasis on the importance of community connections.


Robert Blancato, President, Matz, Blancato & Associates

Sandy Markwood, CEO, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging

Jim Firman, Co-founder and Chief Innovative Officer BellAge Labs, former President & CEO, National Council on Aging

Karyne Jones, President and CEO, National Caucus and Center on Black Aging

Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO, National Hispanic Council on Aging


It’s a New Day! Healthcare is moving more services into the home
One of the most important healthcare findings over the last 20 years has been that there are a number of factors, beyond what happens at the doctor’s office, that influence health. Healthcare professionals acknowledge that what happens in the home – housing, transportation, meals, and other services – along with incorporating social determinants, is critical to overall wellness. We will discuss ways physicians, insurers, and home and community-based service providers can align to support high quality, high-value patient care. We will explore strategies to leverage the powerful energy of these entities when they intersect to improve patient care, achieve greater value, lower healthcare costs, reduce emergency department use and hospital readmissions. We will also learn about what patients want. The value of patient and caregiver perspectives are often underestimated or overlooked. Participants will learn about how barriers that limit patient engagement were met and the rewards of patient engagement toward improving health.

Kathy E. Vesley, President & CEO, Bay Aging/VAAACares

Barry L. Gross, M.D. Medical Director, VAAACares Vice Chairman, Bay Aging Board of Directors Medical Director, Precise Telehealth

William S. Massey, President & CEO, Peninsula Agency on Aging, Inc.



So Far Away: Addressing Social Isolation During the Pandemic and Beyond
Experiencing social isolation and loneliness is not unique to elderhood though the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted the social connections of older adults. Across the country, states and communities have responded to social isolation with innovative strategies to reach older adults and support activities that strengthen belonging. Join ADvancing States and the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services to learn about strategies and practices being implemented in states across the country, nationally, and right here in Virginia to help connect older adults with family and friends, programs and services, and technology access to mitigate social isolation, support connections impacted by the pandemic, and build resources for the future.

April Young, MSW, Senior Director, National Core Indicators – Aging & Disabilities, ADvancing States

Nanette Relave, MSW, Senior Director, National I&R Support Center, ADvancing States

Sara Link, Director of No Wrong Door Virginia, Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services

Erika Okonsky, No Wrong Door Expansion Specialist, Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services


Virtual Exhibit Hall



How Virtual Reality Helps Us Train Better & Faster During Crisis
In this presentation, attendees will learn about and experience first-hand the benefits of using immersive training tools designed especially for people who care for and support older adults. Discover the ways that engaging with immersive training in VR can accelerate learning, lead to deeper understanding of aging and older adults, and allow caregivers to develop rapid insights that lead to significant changes in workplace behaviors, habits, and attitudes, including:

  • stronger emotional and cultural intelligence
  • better practical understanding of person-centered care
  • stronger communication and conflict resolution skills
  • greater confidence in providing care

Co-Founder Erin Washington of Embodied Labs, the leader in immersive training for aging care organizations, will talk about the learning science behind embodied training and share how virtual reality is being used to develop cutting edge training programs across multiple industries, saving companies time and resources, and leading to better satisfaction among employees. You will hear about how care communities for older adults have used immersive, embodied training for staff in all roles and levels of their organization including:

  • how they were able to leverage immersive training in the midst of a global pandemic
  • see some of the data from their use of these modules
  • get a chance to “see inside the headset” and participate in immersive learning by embodying an older adult in virtual reality

Erin Washington, Co-Founder of Embodied Labs



Liveable Communities that Promote Community Access, Inclusion & Engagement
Livable communities for older adults must include the needs and interests of persons aging with disabilities to facilitate broad-based community access, inclusion and engagement. Identifying shared interests between aging and disability communities and building collaborative relationships between stakeholder groups is critical to this process. More than a decade ago, The National Advisory Board on Improving Health Care Services for Older Adults and People with Disabilities (NAB) issued “Six Principles to Modernize the Health Care Infrastructure” which was widely distributed within the healthcare fields and to state and federal policy makers. The future depends upon creating livable communities that support all levels of functional need throughout the life course. Specific focal areas include recognizing the importance of service and supports, technology, and environmental accessibility to foster social inclusion; emphasizing the significance of self-determination and self-advocacy; and integrating other concepts from the social disability movement into the livable community framework. We will share outcomes from the Anthem NAB supported study that engaged people with disabilities and older adults living in Houston to collect insights into accessibility and livability and related projects as examples. Through these efforts, we aim to enhance community capacity and collaboration to support livable communities for all.

Merrill A Friedman, B.A., Sr. Director, Disability Policy Engagement, Anthem, Inc

Michelle Putnam, Ph.D., Professor, Simmons University


Older Adult Bullying in Congregate Settings from Senior Apartments to Nursing Homes: Reducing Older Adult Bullying is Possible

While much has been publicized about the benefits of socialization for older adults, little has been revealed about the dark side of social dynamics when older adults congregate: Older Adult Bullying. This presentation will discuss what is known in about this phenomenon and what does not and does work to reduce it.


Karen Hannigan, LCSW, Supervisor, Aging, Disability and Caregiver Resources Unit, Fairfax County Department of Family Services



How Access to Health Care by Mobile Health Units Can Improve the Lives of Medically Underserved Patients in Virginia

Access to care for the underserved is a problem across Virginia, but is especially problematic for our most vulnerable populations, including older persons. The Health Wagon is the oldest mobile clinic in the nation, providing mobile health services to the medically underserved in Southwest Virginia since 1980. During this session, participants will learn how the Health Wagon has expanded its use of mobile health units for older persons to include specialty clinics such as behavioral health, cardiology, endocrinology as well as diagnostic testing for cancer. Session participants will also hear highlights from the recently released America’s Health Rankings 2020 Senior Report, which provides a comprehensive look at the health of seniors on a state-by-state basis.

Paula Hill-Collins, DNP, FNP-BC, FAANP, Vice-president/Clinical Director, The Health Wagon

Dr. Teresa Tyson, DNP, MSN, FNP-BC, FAANP, President, The Health Wagon



Redefining Community: How JABA Congregate Programs Re-Emerged during COVID-19 Crisis

When COVID-19 struck, program operations halted.. This propelled JABA Managers & Center staff to quickly redefine these critical programs while incorporating critical socialization components. The newly developed At Home with JABA Program captures what is distinctive and critical about our congregate Community Senior Centers and delivers it creatively while utilizing various mediums of connectivity, delighting all involved. The program was formalized in December with the name At Home with JABA. It has helped us stay connected with members and keep members engaged with one another. Since March we have incorporated Zoom and Facebook Live. We have an activity calendar that is sent out monthly to members which includes bingo 3x a week, exercise, nurse presentations, and a wide variety of presentations from our partners. All these programs can be accessed from the comfort of our senior’s homes via phone or internet. This program reaches well over 300 of our CSC members and will be reaching our 200 HDM clients starting in April. Whether you are homebound or independently navigating the community, this program has a little bit for everyone. With our different methods of interaction, we are able to reach seniors no matter their comfort level with technology or internet access. If internet is not a problem we have Zoom, Facebook and emails for them to access as well. Eventual technology will be offered as well as training opportunities. JABA’s programming goal is to challenge participants with new ideas, opportunities and experiences to promote brain health, in addition to physical and mental health. Workshop participants will learn how these congregate CSC programs pivoted on a dime to deliver programming, meals and most importantly, joy and community during a time when isolation was a requirement and how this can be implemented in their own agency.

Crystal Donovan, Coordinator for Senior Nutrition At-Home programs

Emily Foreman, Manager of Senior Nutrition Programs



Combatting the Demise of Older Adults at The Hands of Opioid Abuse & Misuse

Arlington’s Virginia Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program (VICAP) provides free, unbiased, confidential health insurance counseling for Medicare beneficiaries. Annually, the Open Enrollment Period is a time when beneficiaries can change their Medicare Advantage and Prescription drug plans (Part D). During the 2019 season, VICAP invited beneficiaries to bring their list of medications and partnered with the Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative (AARI) to offer information about safely discarding unused or unneeded opioids and other medications. AARI is a community wide stakeholders’ group that combats the opioid epidemic. AARI focuses on prevention, community outreach, increasing access to treatment, data collection, and sharing resources. VICAP invited AARI to present at monthly Medicare classes and provide education to the community about the importance of properly disposing unused medications. AARI supplied VICAP with resources about safely disposing unused and expired medications through permanent drug takeback boxes and home disposal kits that were distributed to beneficiaries during Medicare counseling. Because of the partnership between VICAP and AARI, both programs have gained a greater awareness of and access to older adults who are at higher risk of having unused medications. This is a partnership that we plan to continue beyond the open enrollment season.

Michelle Thomas, Program Coordinator, Virginia Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program (VICAP)

Emily Siqveland, LPC, Co-Coordinator, Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative


Caregivers Create

Valley Program for Aging Services has been offering ‘Confident Caregiver Mini-Retreats’ since the summer of 2020. These virtual retreats are a time for caregivers to socialize, engage in self-care practices, and create small, lovely arts and crafts. This session will emulate this experience while discussing the merits of this form of caregiver respite. Participants will gain access to resources, helpful tips regarding the virtual aspects of the retreats, and ways to welcome those who may feel less artistically inclined. Here are the supplies requested for participants to have available:

  • 4-5 sheets of different colored scrapbook paper in which the colors blend to your liking
  • scissors 
  • glue stick
  • blank card
  • cut out image that will become the focal point of the card (flower, butterfly, sun are some ideas)

Kathy Guisewite, Coordinator of the Caregivers Community Network, Valley Program for Aging Services



Transportation for the Aging: What do you do when you need help getting around? Three innovative community mobility programs from Virginia, Florida, and Ohio.

When it comes to community mobility, Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) / rideshare options can be challenging for aging riders. What happens when you can’t get to the vehicle on your own? What if you are uncomfortable with technology? How do you make sure drivers know how to help aging riders and people with special needs? How do you make sure trips are completed on time so people have the right access to critical appointments? We’ll briefly review the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) Type 2 TNC designation and the requirements for a higher level of care TNC, while introducing the Adaptive TNC Model. Then we’ll share three real-world examples of successful community mobility programs assisting the transportation disadvantaged, the elderly, and others from three states including Virginia.


Ned Freeman, EVP Marketing & Community Relations, UZURV



Virtual Exhibit Hall


Let’s Disrupt Ageism and Develop Elderhood!
In this creative and highly interactive session, participants will have the opportunity to dive to a deeper level of culture change in order to bring about more person-centered practices in long-term supports and services (LTSS). Participants will be guided by experienced facilitators in an exploration of their own attitudes to growing older using a brief video intervention. This will create a powerful motivation to actively contribute to the development of ageism-free LTSS that honor and seek to fully develop elderhood as a growth life stage. Following the video exercise, participants will learn about the key findings from empirical research on how ageism manifests in LTSS. Facilitators will then support participants in brainstorming and generating practical ideas for creating and maintaining LTSS cultures that honor personhood and elderhood and which disrupt ageism. Participants will leave the session with a list of innovative and achievable strategies and practices they can apply in their LTSS organizations in order to promote a healthy and safe environment free from ageism and where elders can thrive and grow.

Jenny Inker, PhD, VCU Assistant Professor & Co-Director, Assisted Living Administration Specialty Area

Jen Pryor, MA, MS, VCU Gerontology Program Director & Co-Director, Assisted Living Administration Speciality Area



Intersections of Diversity and Ageism
Recognition and validation of our core identities are integral to optimal aging and longevity. And we all have multiple levels of identity; and these identities often intersect. Gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, regionality and so many more. And when these unique levels of identity intersect with ageism…? These are opportunities for conversations about how to be supportive of diversity and inclusion when met with these opportunities and challenges.

Jay White, EdD, MSG, Director of Advocacy and Education, The Longevity Project for a Greater Richmond



Aging Together – Age Friendly Communities that Actively Engage, Value, and Support Older Adults

Aging Together connects people with resources and communities to improve quality of life as we age. As one example, this past year, Aging Together has responded to the pandemic with innovative approaches to addressing social isolation. In this session, participants will:

  • Gain an understanding of a model for connecting older adults to community resources
  • Learn 2 strategies for developing community partnerships for enhanced outreach to older adults and caregivers
  • Learn 2 innovative approaches to addressing social isolation
  • Learn about a model for volunteer engagement

Ellen Phipps, CTRS, MS, Executive Director, Aging Together


Virtual Exhibit Hall


The Pandemic: Inside Looking Out and Outside Looking In
This interactive panel presentation and discussion will cover the challenges and real-life issues faced by those experiencing the pandemic in nursing homes and assisted living facilities (ALF) since March 2020. Many of us have some knowledge as family members, ombudsmen, facility staff, and/or individuals working with seniors. What has it really been like for those on the inside looking out? What has been the worse part of being “locked away” and quarantined? What have these incredible individuals learned? How have they changed? Looking back a year later, what do they wish had been handled differently?

Carol Cooper Driskill, Long Term Care Ombudsman at Crater District Area Agency on Aging and daughter of a resident in an ALF Memory Care Unit.

Teresa Kelsey, long time Administrator at Petersburg Home for Ladies, a non-profit residential and ALF founded in 1925.

Melanie Brooke, a Master’s level prepared special education teacher and advocate who resided in a nursing home from March 2019 until November 2020. She now lives in her own apartment and loves her senior life.

Deborah Connor, a resident at a nursing home since January 2018 who hopes to transition to her own apartment in the future.



The Impact of the BRI Care Consultation Program to Support Persons with Memory Loss and Their Caregivers

This session will present two care coordination models for people with dementia and their caregivers currently in use in Virginia. Both interventions, delivered over a 12-month period, coordinate health care and community services while providing education and emotional support. Care consultants, typically social workers, counselors or nurses are trained in dementia and available resources. The programs are available at the UVA Memory and Aging Care Clinic and the Riverside Center for Excellence in Aging and Lifelong Health. The interventions are provided through home visits, clinic visits, phone, mail, and/or email. Both programs use modifications of the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging (BRIA) Care Consultation program, an evidence-based tool for persons with memory loss and a primary caregiver who assists with daily tasks and health-related matters. Both programs will be discussed including the populations served, specifics of the models and lessons learned, particularly as these programs continued operations during the pandemic. 


Christine J. Jensen, PhD., Director, Health Services Research, Riverside Center for Excellence in Aging & Lifelong Health

Terry Sweaney, LPN, CGCM, CSA, Dementia Care Consultant, Riverside Center for Excellence in Aging & Lifelong Health

Samantha Fields, Dementia Care Coordinator, University of Virginia

Elizabeth Boyd, Dementia Care Coordinator, UVA Memory and Aging Care Clinic

Carol Manning, Ph.D. ABPP-CN, Director Memory and Aging Care Clinic, Harrison Distinguished Teaching Professor of Neurology, University of Virginia



Virtual Exhibit Hall


Challenges and Opportunities in Addressing Elder Abuse During the Pandemic

The pandemic has restricted and often prevented access to long term care facilities for families, the Ombudsman, and investigators. This has made the prevention, detection, investigation, and prosecution of elder abuse much more difficult. This multi-disciplinary panel of investigators will discuss the challenges each of them face in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting elder abuse during the pandemic. The panelists are an Investigative Supervisor and Nurse Investigator in the Elder Abuse Unit of the Office of Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, and an Intake Coordinator from Adult Protective Services for Albemarle County. They will describe their roles in investigating and prosecuting elder abuse and advocating for elderly persons and their loved ones, and how their missions and roles overlap and diverge. They also will provide suggestions for professionals who serve the elderly community about how to prevent, detect, and report elder abuse even when access to facilities is limited or unavailable. The panel discussion will be facilitated by Lelia Winget-Hernandez, a former Assistant Attorney General in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and current elder law attorney.


Lelia Winget-Hernandez, Elder Law Attorney

Howard J. Hicks, Investigative Supervisor, Office of the Attorney General

Lisa Abraham, Nurse Investigator, Office of the Attorney General

Tamar Goodale, Long Term Care Ombudsman (Jefferson Area Board of Aging)

Kristina Robertson, Intake Coordinator, Albemarle County Adult Protective Services


The Intersection

The Intersection connects affordable housing, transportation, health care and support services. AASC’s different departments collaborate to create unique partnerships. All of these services contribute to communities for the future. AASC will illustrate how their mission — to advocate, plan, develop, implement and promote independence with a high quality of life for healthy aging that benefits individuals and families of all ages in a sustainable, livable community — is at work in their Senior Living Community. AASC owns and operates a mobile home park that provides housing for seniors aged 55 and older and adults with disabilities. Units are reserved for low-income seniors with risk criteria such as health issues, homelessness, or extreme social isolation. As part of the livable community concept, program components are not limited to housing. That’s where AASC’s support services fill in the gaps and address the social determinants of health. AASC also operates the public transit system providing handicapped accessible transportation to grocery stores, doctors, shopping and community activities. Appalachian Agency’s rural PACE program provides inclusive care for the elderly, including an on-site medical and physical therapy clinic. This session will explain opportunities to engage community partners that will contribute to the overall success of the livable community.

Regina Sayers, Executive Director, Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens

Brian Beck, CFO, Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens


Changing the Culture of Care for African Americans Living with Dementia

Optimizing brain health for Virginians requires eliminating disparities in access to care, resources and services while addressing the social determinants of health. Improving the health of Virginians best happens by focusing on communities at greatest risk and eliminating barriers to quality healthcare services, especially in the areas of brain health, disease prevention and health promotion activities. Alzheimer’s and other dementias disproportionately impact African Americans and Hispanics. Eliminating these disparities is integral to public health. This session will showcase the worth the Alzheimer’s Association and the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Health Equity to ensure their faith-based coalition members, healthcare providers and community health workers are educated on Alzheimer’s, brain health and the potential to reduce the rise of cognitive decline. The most recent data show that an estimated 140,000 Virginias aged 65 and order are living with Alzheimer’s disease; 8.9 percent of Virginians aged 45 and older have subjective cognitive decline; and 462,000 family caregivers bear the burden of caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. These numbers show that a public health approach is necessary to lessen the burden and enhance the quality of life for those living with cognitive impairment and their families.


Linda G. Brown, PhD, RN-BC

Katie McDonough, LCSW, Alzheimer’s Association, Southeastern Virginia Chapter

Tina R. Thomas, MSHP, CDP, CADDCT, Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Richmond & Central and Western Virginia Chapter


Collaborating to Embed Falls Prevention Programs into the Community: Transitioning in the Presence of COVID-19
Evidence-based falls prevention programs that utilize volunteer lay leaders provide cost-effective mechanisms to address the epidemic of falls in older adults. A Matter of Balance (AMOB), Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL), and Otago Exercise Program are evidence-based programs proven to be effective in reducing fear of falling and falls in older adults. In 2016 Marymount University was awarded a federal grant to embed these programs into northern Virginia. Using the RE-AIM framework (Reach of the programs, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation, and Maintenance), this presentation will discuss our outcomes and lessons learned, including challenges and opportunities, in implementing these programs within the region, especially in the presence of COVID-19. We will use the embedding of SAIL within the community as a specific example. We will also describe the development and role of the Northern Virginia Falls Prevention Alliance (NVFPA) in creating sustainable community partnerships, establishing awareness campaigns, engaging in advocacy activities, and facilitating collaborative efforts to sustain fall prevention programs across our region. In order to enhance the health of older adults in Virginia, it is critical for organizations to collaborate and encourage community members to work together to offer effective falls prevention programs to all older adults.

Cathy Elrod, PT, PhD, Professor, Department of Physical Therapy, Marymount University
Sara Pappa, PhD, MCHES, Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) Specialist, WI-HER, LLC
Rita Wong, EdD, PT, FAPTA, Marymount University



Virtual Exhibit Hall



Facilitated Session: EnergyShare: Four Decades of Providing a
Helping Hand to Those Most Vulnerable


Nikki Taylor, EnergyShare Program Manager, Dominion Energy



Accessing Services in a Digital World: Supporting Older Adults’ Technology Use

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted service delivery to older adults and persons with disabilities. Aging and disability agencies have used technology in innovative ways to continue to offer services. ADvancing States conducted a survey to explore how states have had to alter service delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. Survey results found that technology access has been critical in ensuring older adults receive the support they need during the pandemic. However, the shift to virtual services has exacerbated issues with the long-standing digital divide. Join ADvancing States and Virginia’s Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services and Assistive Technology Act program to learn about the current landscape of technology access and how the Virginia No Wrong Door system and AT program are partnering to ensure older Virginians and people with disabilities are staying connected to services during the pandemic. 


Catherine Macdonald, No Wrong Door Project Specialist

Sonja Schaible, VATS AT & Aging, Access Coordinator

Paula Martin, No Wrong Door AT Specialist

Samantha Gardner, Senior Policy Associate



Working Together to Promote Brain Healthy Communities in Virginia

Recent research supporting the positive impact of healthy lifestyles in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease has offered hope for the future. It has shown explicitly that healthy lifestyles around physical health and exercise, diet and nutrition, cognitive activity, and social engagement may reduce our risk for Alzheimer’s disease. In this interactive program, we will share the latest research and provide information about a new collaborative effort between the Virginia Alzheimer’s Association and Virginia Department of Health to educate and promote healthy lifestyles. We will share ways you can be involved in this effort, too. We will also discuss practical strategies for addressing each lifestyle habit and explore ways community agencies, businesses, and senior care organizations at all levels of care can work together to encourage brain-healthy lifestyles and support brain health initiatives. 


Denise Scruggs, MA, MS, CDP, CADDCT, Director, Beard Center on Aging at the University of Lynchburg  

Annette Clark, MS, Gerontologist, CDP, Family Services Director, Alzheimer’s Association – Central and Western Virginia Chapter



Financial Exploitation: How to Prevent Abuse By People Who Make Decisions for You

Vulnerable older adults needing surrogate decision makers (i.e., powers of attorney, guardians, representative payees) typically rely upon others for care and are unable to advocate for themselves. The issue of elder abuse perpetrated by surrogates has become highly visible nationally, yet no reliable, empirical documentation exists on the nature or extent of exploitation by surrogate perpetrators. In collaboration with the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), we prospectively gathered Adult Protective Services data from six geographically diverse counties on 450 substantiated cases of abuse by POAs, representative payees, and guardians of vulnerable adults 65+ living in community settings. This presentation will highlight how surrogates perpetuated abuse its outcomes on elder victims. A legal perspective on the findings informs practice and policy recommendations for better prevention and intervention in these challenging cases.


Pamela B. Teaster, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Virginia Tech Center for Gerontology

Christopher Desimone, Esq., Anderson, Desimone & Green, PC



Social Determinants of Health: Stable Housing of Older Adults before, during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic

Just 10-20% of our health status relates directly to medical care; social factors such as housing stability account for 80-90% of how healthy we are, and during a pandemic, housing plays an even more significant role in keeping older adults healthy and safe. In this panel session, participants will learn about the intersection between housing and health including efforts to improve housing stability among older adults before, during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic.


Pamela Kestner, Chief Deputy, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development

Jovan Burton, Director of Implementation, Partnership for Housing Affordability


COVID-19 in Geriatrics: Brain, Behavior and Disparity Concerns

Since the beginning of 2020 SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) has exacerbated pre-existing health disparities, impairing successful aging. It has been the epicenter for death is long-term care (LTC) facilities with less than 1% of Virginians accounting for 36% of all fatalities. The disease has exacerbated the pre-existing epidemic of fatal behavioral health disorders. COVID-19 has caused a variety of neurological complications and post-acute COVID-19 behavioral and neurological syndromes. These issues will be discussed in detail along with the need for more LTC/Community/Family behavioral health training; as well as the formation of Vaccine and Behavioral Health Ambassadors (Champions), especially for underserved communities.


Paul F. Aravich, Ph.D., Eastern Virginia Medical School



It Takes a Village – Three Villages in Northern Virginia respond to the 2020 Pandemic

Villages are local, community-based non-profits whose volunteers provide services and support to help older adults stay in their homes and community as the challenges of aging make that more difficult. Three villages in Northern Virginia will share their experiences helping seniors during the pandemic, including how they re-tooled and pivoted in response to COVID-19, expanding their reach and impact. Village members and volunteers connect to enrich their lives, enjoy mutual interests, and serve the needs of each other and the community. Together, they form a vibrant village with a culture of caring that enriches the aging experience in their community. Village goals are to:

  • Promote independent living by providing services and support
  • Reduce social isolation through access to social, educational, and wellness activities
  • Strengthen community connections through volunteer service
  • Provide a single point of contact for information and services needed for independent living
  • Contribute to the peace of mind of members and their families
  • Serve eligible county residents, regardless of ability to pay

More so than ever in 2020, basic services were desperately needed by seniors. These three villages operated continuously through 2020 pivoting to help at-risk seniors and deepening community partnerships to strengthen the senior safety net.

Wendy Zenker, Executive Director at Arlington Neighborhood Village
Cele Garrett, Executive Director, At Home in Alexandria
Jan Buchanan, Executive Director at Mount Vernon At Home



Facilitated Session: AARP’s Livability Index

How livable is your community? The Livability Index scores neighborhoods and communities across the U.S. for the services and amenities that impact your life the most. Join Jana Lynott, Senior Strategic Policy Advisor at AARP’s Public Policy Institute, to learn more about this valuable tool. The AARP Public Policy Institute informs public debate on the issues we face as we age, promoting policies to address our common need for economic security, health care, and quality of life.


Jana Lynott, Senior Strategic Policy Advisor at AARP’s Public Policy Institute


Innovative Geriatric Mental Health Treatment in Long Term Care Communities

The RAFT (Regional Older Adult Facilities Mental Health Support Team) program is an innovative geriatric mental health treatment model that is changing the way care is provided to older adults with mental illness or dementia with challenging behavior. As of 2020, one in seven Virginians will be over the age of 65, people more prone to dementia-related diseases. Many need long term care placement in an assisted living or nursing home. The RAFT treatment model is designed to support older adults with mental illness and dementia with challenging behavior diagnoses to thrive in their long-term care communities.


Alice Straker, LCSW, RAFT Program Director

Ndidi Uzowihe, MSW, Mental Health Therapist, Supervisor in Social Work



Low-Cost Home Modifications to Prevent Falls
If we are concerned about protecting seniors from falls, we need to identify and correct fall hazards in their homes. Rebuilding Together Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church has developed an effective system for identifying and correcting fall hazards in low-income seniors’ homes. In fact, our Rebuilding Together Express program won the Commonwealth Council on Aging’s top statewide Best Practices award in 2018. In completing repairs to 218 homes, we’ve documented the strikingly high prevalence of fall hazards in our low-income clients’ homes. More importantly, we’ve demonstrated that relatively simple and low-cost repairs, modifications, and equipment can correct most of these hazards. Our small teams of RT Express volunteers correct 95% of fall hazards through half-day projects spending less than $500 for materials. We believe our Rebuilding Together Express model is ripe for replication by programs that rely on staff, contractors, or volunteers to make home modifications and repairs.

Don Ryan, Rebuilding Together Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church

Lucy Stein, MSOTR/L, CAPS MedStar Health



Building Capacity to Respond to Behavioral Health Needs of Older Adults in Virginia

The Virginia Geriatric Education Center (VGEC) partnered with the Virginia Association of Area Agencies on Aging (V4A) to identify, deliver, and evaluate training events this fiscal year targeting behavioral health. The VGEC surveyed leadership among V4A members. Behavioral health education was the highest priority statewide. Several Area Agencies on Aging CEOs attending a VGEC meeting further defined behavioral health and the types of education that would be most relevant for their particular staff. We learned they define behavioral health broadly (including anxiety, depression, substance misuse, post-traumatic stress, etc.). We developed a 3-part webinar series to address identified needs. The first part used the Older Adults Behavioral Health Profiles for Region 3, published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to guide our curriculum and incorporated new data on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on older adult’s behavioral health. The second part used the SAMHSA’s Get Connected: Linking Older Adults with Resources on Medication, Alcohol, and Mental Health toolkit as a roadmap and addressed communication, screening and referral for behavioral health concerns. In part 3, the National Council on Aging shared evidence-based programs used successfully by the aging network to address behavioral health concerns. We provided the training for three cohorts with five AAAs participating. After each series, we conducted rapid cycle Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) to improve the series. This presentation will be directed to VGCOA attendees, and highlight the overall themes of the three webinars, in a one-hour showcase of behavioral health strategies targeting older adults, in a post-pandemic world.


Faika Zanjani, PhD, Associate Professor in Gerontology, Virginia Commonwealth University
Kathleen Cameron, BS, Pharm, MPH, Director, National Falls Prevention Resource Center
Jennifer Mathews, BS, Education and Evaluation Coordinator, Virginia Geriatric Education Center
Leland “Bert” Waters, PhD, Associate Director, Virginia Center on Aging



Protecting Older Adults from Fraud and Financial Loss

During the pandemic, older adults have been targeted and disproportionately affected by various fraud schemes and identity theft. Though fraud has grown across all demographics, there are certain scams which are more likely to affect older adults. In addition, financial loss associated with these scams is, in some respects, greater for older adults. This session will explore the top frauds affecting seniors in 2020, examine the financial toll on seniors for those frauds and discuss way in which seniors can protect themselves from future victimization.


Shawn L. Smith, Director, Virginia SMP



Closing Keynote

More information coming.