VPAS and VAIL offer invaluable services

There are two agencies in Central Shenandoah Planning District 6 combining their efforts to improve quality of life and independence for people across a variety of ages and walks of life.

The mission of Valley Program for Aging Services, known more locally as VPAS is “to empower those 60 years and older with the resources and opportunities they need to lead engaged lives”. In Highland County, VPAS comes through Second Wind, or Highland Senior Services, and in Bath the Senior Center is a VPAS program. In Highland and Bath, and the rest of the service area, which includes Rockingham, Augusta, Rockbridge Counties and the cities of Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro, Lexington and Buena Vista, VPAS also coordinates Meals on Wheels.

The other partner in this very dynamic duo is VAIL, or Valley Associates for Independent Living. This non-profit was founded to insure services for individuals are available in his or her own community, at home, and on the job site.  All the services VAIL offers are tailored to each individual’s goals, strengths, and needs so they can achieve their maximum potential and a full measure of self-respect.

In 1988, VAIL began offering classes on work and living skills, and then began assisting people with disabilities to move from their parents’ homes or institutions into the community.  These individuals were supported with training in independent living and job skills as well as with specialized education and emergency services. One of the ways VAIL manages to remain such an individualized, community-based, and consumer-driven organization is by maintaining at least fifty-one percent of its staff is people with disabilities. In 2000 VAIL became a Center for Independent Living. There are fifteen other CILs in Virginia, and they all help individuals assess their needs, learn how to match their resources to needs, such as affordable, accessible housing, assistive technology, transportation, and services.

VAIL began partnering with VPAS to provide options counseling to individuals throughout the Planning District to ensure they are aware of all of the options available to them.  A recent headline in Time magazine read, “There is no ‘old age’ anymore”, and as a result the wide variety of those options, and the importance of identifying very individually what they might be, becomes a necessity. That article of November 21st, took this line of thinking to a wider range. It’s available on the Second Wind/ Highland Senior Services Facebook page. Author Joseph Coughlin wrote,

“The longevity economy in the U.S. alone adds up to over a hundred million older people, many of whom have the potential to live beyond the age of 100. We need to be ready. Infrastructure from housing to transportation must be reengineered. Accessibility will no longer be a nicety or a legal mandate, but an essential feature of both public and private spaces, so that no one of any age will be shut out from the world.”

For more information about our local resources contact Harmony Leonard in Highland County, and Alicia Wrights in Bath County. VAIL is Harrisonburg-based but covers the same district as VPAS, and can be reached at 540-433-6513, or toll free at 1-888-242-VAIL.

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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