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Chapel Hill, NC by Dr. Jenny Womack, Campus Coordinator: UNC Partnerships in Aging Program  / jwomack@med.unc.edu    

Every five years for the past two decades, the Orange County, North Carolina Department on Aging (OCDOA) has undertaken the task of strategic planning to optimize the county as a place where structures and services are responsive to and inclusive of older adults. The result, called the Master Aging Plan (or MAP) results in an extensive set of goals for the coming 5 years.

The OCDOA is not the only aging services provider to engage in long-term strategic planning, nor is it unique in its desire to involve multiple contributors in such a process. What warrants attention, however, is the manner in which OCDOA engages the community in strategic planning, implementation, and evaluation.

For these efforts, the UNC Partnerships in Aging is proud to recognize the work of the OCDOA as an exemplar of wAGING change.

For the latest version of the MAP that spans years 2017-2022, Orange County adopted the AARP Framework for Age-Friendly Communities as a planning structure and engaged multiple stakeholders in the planning process. Initially, 1000 people responded to a county-wide survey asking about the experience of growing older in Orange County. Later, over 80 community members ranging from volunteers to organizational leaders were assembled into work teams to develop goals and strategic initiatives in eight different domains:

  • Civic Participation and Employment
  • Communication and Information
  • Community and health services
  • Housing
  • Outdoor Spaces and Buildings
  • Respect and Social Inclusion
  • Social Participation
  • Transportation

In a process led by OCDOA staff and supported by a Capstone team of students from the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, the teams gathered bi-weekly over a period of three months to determine priorities for the five-year plan. Each team was co-facilitated by a staff member and a graduate student and worked quickly to articulate action steps for achieving the established objectives. Three characteristics of the process are particularly notable:

  • Governmental and community partners engaged in the work teams are actively enlisted in implementation plans to enhance the potential for success
  • Work teams continuously engage additional members over the five-year implementation period, effectively involving the entire community in achieving change
  • Program evaluation begins as the plan is established, and is supported by both the Director and a designated graduate fellow of the UNC Partnerships in Aging program, ensuring ongoing attention to the process and its achievements

In the three years since the current MAP was implemented, nearly 90% of the 230 indicators have been addressed, and are receiving ongoing attention despite challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. Substantial achievements have been documented in transportation services, senior housing, intergenerational programming, and the construction of infrastructure to support additional services.

For details of the 2017-2022 Master Aging Plan and current implementation status, we invite you to visit https://www.co.orange.nc.us/203/Master-Aging-Plan-Aging-Initiatives and learn more about these experts in wAGING change.

2020 Womack, J.L. Professor: UNC-CH Division of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy, Department of Allied Health Sciences

 

 

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