‘Share the Isle’ plan for seniors approved

Published 7:30 pm Thursday, December 22, 2022

Isle of Wight County supervisors voted unanimously Dec. 8 to adopt a senior-citizen-focused addition to the county’s 2020 “Envisioning the Isle” comprehensive plan.

The new section, titled “Share the Isle,” is intended to serve as a decision-making guide for the county to remain livable for residents of all ages and abilities, particularly senior citizens.

According to 2020 Census data, just under 20% of Isle of Wight’s roughly 39,000 residents were age 65 or older as of that year. According to the “Share the Isle” plan, the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center projects this figure will rise to just under 27% by 2030.

County staff began developing the plan in 2021. The plan identifies five focus areas: “healthy and active lifestyle,” “quality healthcare,” “transportation access,” “housing choices” and “education, employment and engagement.”

According to the document, Isle of Wight has an above-average number of adults with “frequent mental distress,” diabetes and obesity, as well as an above-average population served by unsafe drinking water and who lack access to a large grocery store. The plan further contends Isle of Wight has an “equity” problem, with a higher-than-average racial disparity in educational attainment and poverty rates.

As a remedy, the plan proposes Isle of Wight encourage mixed-use zoning, in which commercial and residential units are combined on a single parcel, often within walking distance. It further proposes the county adopt an “affordable dwelling unit ordinance,” to “increase the supply of more affordable housing for persons of all ages by offering incentives to private developers.”

The document further calls for expanding the county’s bicycle and pedestrian trails; expanding its Parks and Recreation Department’s programs to include exercise options for all ability levels; expanding public transportation options, to include the existing I-Ride bus system operated by Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia; allowing accessory apartments in all residential zoning districts; improving the accessibility of health services; and hiring a full-time “livable community coordinator” to serve as a point of contact for health care and support services for seniors.

“You don’t know what they do, you don’t know what the acronym stands for, you don’t know how to apply for it, you don’t know who to call; there needs to be as part of this whole plan some kind of a clearing station,” said Supervisor Dick Grice.

Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson then urged seniors, “Don’t wait until you get into a crisis before you ask for help.”

Supervisor William McCarty, prior to voting on the document, called for adding an “overarching umbrella” focus on seniors’ financial security. Carrollton resident Tom Finderson had requested the addition during the meeting’s public hearing on the “Share the Isle” plan.

“Seniors who depend primarily on Social Security are in crisis; they’re being moved to the poverty level,” Finderson said.