After spending years in the land use arena, Pamela Jordan considered running the county’s Department of Aging and Disabilities. Once on the job, she discovered her passion for helping older adults. Since her career switch, Jordan hasn’t looked back and enjoys spending her days assisting the fastest-growing demographic in the nation.

What is your budget?

We get money from the federal government ($1.8 million), the Maryland Department of Aging ($1.3 million), then $8.6 million from Anne Arundel County. The ADRC is a standalone agency within the local government. That has allowed us to do things like garner a $246,000 grant from the Mass Transit Administration for our taxi program and we’re working on setting it up for Uber and Lyft.

Who do you serve?

We assist anyone wishing to plan their future. By making more communities more age-friendly, people can stay in their communities. That’s important, because once you get to the nursing home level of care, the costs run from $70,000-$100,000 per year.

One thing we are doing is getting involved in the county’s General Development Plan, so we are incorporating some goals to make the county more age-friendly. One is to develop a strategic plan.

Next, we’ll work with the Anne Arundel Community Development Services to increase the availability of affordable housing as well as enhancing transportation. Our department is also the American Disabilities Act (ADA) office for the county government so we advocate for the ADA Act as well as ensure that the government is compliant with the Title II ADA Act.

Do we need more three-tiered retirement communities?

Such projects offer a great new option for the people. They’re beautiful but also expensive. People who come to us are getting $750 to $1,500 a month from Social Security so that’s not achievable. Once they need assisted living, it’s a real challenge to find a place for them.

Do most seniors want to age in their homes?

Absolutely. That’s where you get to keep what you like, keep your pets and know where the peanut butter is as well as having all of your memories. That’s a big deal when it comes to quality of life and dovetails into our goal – to keep things in place in your home so you can stay. But we don’t want people isolated so we try to help people socialize.

Are local seniors engaged?

We have about 5,000 local seniors engaged in our senior activity centers but often people who come to us don’t do so until they need Medicare counseling at age 65. I think we could be better connected to the community to promote the importance of planning for your future.

How do you help seniors fight loneliness?

Pamela Jordan, director of the Anne Arundel County Department of Aging and Disabilities (standing,
right), enjoys a few words with the clientele at the Pascal Center in Glen Burnie.

We have multiple programs for our more active seniors at age 55. We also have our Senior Center Plus for those who need more queuing, who might be dealing with dementia or other issues.

All of our staff are trained in mental health first aid. We try to recognize mental health issues and coordinate with our core agency when needed. Also, we have a new $10,000 evidence-based program called PEARLS (Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives) to help adults diagnosed with depression, a telephone reassurance program where you get a call from a friendly voice and emergency contacts available as a back-up.

What role is technology playing?

We have an assistive technology program to help older adults with disabilities. We offer training in classes at senior centers so they can become savvier about food delivery services, from groceries to fast food, for instance.

Are you shocked by the attention families give seniors?

It’s very disheartening for us to hear some of the stories about older adults who have given their lives to the community and their families and are not getting the respect they deserve. We have a program called Guardianship. When I took this job eight years ago, we had just six clients; now it’s 40. That’s an indicator of the growth of that population, lack of planning and how some younger generations do give up on families.

What’s the biggest strength of the department?

Our compassion and empathy. Everyone that we touch, we touch with an engaged sense of hope. That’s the culture we nurture here.

What’s your office’s biggest challenge?

Seniors are the fastest-growing population and our biggest challenge is that people have not thought about what aging in this community is going to be like for them. So, it’s stressing the importance of planning. And we can help them do that.

What are your hopes for the program?

It’s all about planning. We see so many people who don’t come to us before it’s the end of their rope. We see caregivers who are helping a family member who don’t know that we have a robust program and can help prevent that.