Helping Arlington and the mid-cities civic community get ready for the Silver Tsunami

by Amy Martin

 

“Be the kind of woman who when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says ‘Oh no, she’s up!’ ”

In the case of Elva Roy, it’s not the devil but Arlington officials that feel the tremor. The intrepid Roy, age 70, felt so inspired by the Summit in Grand Prairie — ranked in the top ten of senior centers in the U.S. — that she pressed the city of Arlington for its first senior center. A vote to approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase for it and other civic improvements will now happen next fall.

“Officials in places like Arlington have heard of the Silver Tsunami, know that it’s coming, but don’t know what to do, what to change,” says Roy, chief rabble-rouser for Ambassadors For Aging (AFA). “That’s where we come in. We want to help them understand how to make life better for older adults.”

Roy became interested in senior issues before she turned reached retirement age. She struggled for several years being a caretaker for her mother, who suffered from dementia and languished in an Arlington nursing home until her passage.

“Wish I knew then what I know now,” says Roy, referring to her lack of understanding of dementia treatment options and available support services such as home health care. “After that experience I decided I wanted to make things better for older people.”

Though Roy had lived and raised children in Arlington and the mid-cities, “when I retired in 2011, I realized that I didn’t know anything about my hometown, even though I’d been here for decades,” says Roy. “I decided to get involved and engaged.”

About that time, United Way and the University of Texas at Arlington organized focus groups on elderly issues. Roy jumped in. The determined half-dozen left at the end of the process became Age-Friendly Arlington, now Ambassadors For Aging, with over 200 members.

With an Arlington senior center in motion, Roy and activists plan to focus on transportation. “Arlington is the largest U.S. city without mass transit,” says Roy, noting that current senior ride services focus mainly on doctor visits and do little to counter elderly isolation.

Another focus is visitability standards that help those using mobility-assist devices such as walkers, wheelchairs and scooters. Roy sites three easy things that make a difference: having one no-step entrance (even on the side or back), wider hallways and doors, and at least a half-bath on the main floor.

To join Roy in her quest for an age-friendly world, visit AmbassadorsForAging.org. All are welcome, but those with graphic design, MailChimp, and website skills fit a great need. For more on civic efforts to empower the elderly, visit Age Friendly Initiatives at the World Health Organization.