Senior Services talks IW expansion

Published 6:49 pm Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia, a regional nonprofit that advocates for older adults in South Hampton Roads, is looking to expand its presence in Isle of Wight County with satellite locations in the Windsor, Zuni and Benns Church communities for on-site services.

Making use of the Windsor Town Center, a roughly 14,000-square-foot facility located along Courthouse Highway, is of particular interest to Steve Zollos, Senior Services’ chief executive officer, as a means of broadening awareness and participation among seniors in all areas of the county.

“It puts us in a central location and as we expand our transportation programming, it will allow us to bring more people into the site,” Zollos said during a work session of Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors Dec. 10.

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Currently, Senior Services operates its Isle of Wight congregate programs out of Nike Park in Carrollton.

“There are currently no plans to relocate the successful Nike Park program,” Zollos said.

But the agency is looking to purchase two new I-Ride buses dedicated solely to Isle of Wight County, which would be used in part to provide transportation to all the proposed satellite centers it hopes to open. According to Zollos, a single 12-14 passenger I-Ride bus, properly outfitted for people with disabilities, costs roughly $65,000 to $70,000 — making the total cost for two around $130,000, plus another $5,000 for gas and maintenance.

“Senior Services is currently developing a comprehensive programs and services plan for older adults of IOW,” Zollos said. “We are hoping to complete the plan by Jan. 15 and have costs at that time.”

Senior Services is also hoping Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors will assist with the cost of implementing the plan, but has “no firm numbers yet” as far as a breakdown of cost sharing, he added.

Isle of Wight’s population of individuals age 60 and up is currently 36% larger than its population under 20, Zollos said. That gap is projected to widen by 2030 to a senior population that’s 58% larger than its under-20 population. Isle of Wight’s percentage of individuals 19 and under is expected to remain flat for the next decade, and its percentage of those age 20-59 is projected to decrease.

“The only segment that’s growing is the older adult segment,” Zollos said. “The old adage of the silver tsunami has been debunked. We no longer talk about the burden that the seniors are going to bring onto the economy. But rather, economists have recognized that quite the opposite is the case.”

Senior Services’ comprehensive plan for Isle of Wight will also include an evaluation of where the agency should offer fixed I-Ride bus routes. Currently, there is such a route serving the Smithfield area but “I’d like to see one in downtown Windsor,” said Tabitha Smith, Senior Services’ director of transportation.

In 2019, I-Ride buses provided 4,800 one-way trips in Isle of Wight County alone. The buses serve senior citizens and people with disabilities, transporting them to various medical facilities.

“To me, the ultimate goal, what I’d like to see in Isle of Wight is for you guys to have what we call, the transportation funding language is 5311, but it’s simply public transportation, which is doable,” she added.

According to the Federal Transit Administration website, Chapter 53, Section 5311, as reauthorized under the FAST Act, provides capital, planning and operating assistance to states and federally-recognized native American tribes to support public transportation in rural areas with populations less than 50,000.