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A passionate advocate for the needs of older people, Dr. Jodi Marie Winship’s story is a testament to the power of one person’s determination to make a difference – and it was her commitment to the health, well-being and quality of life of older people in public housing that led her to found Richmond Aging and Engaging.

Winship, an occupational therapist, has found through her professional experience and volunteer work that low-income older adults often face significant barriers to engaging in meaningful activities. She identified inadequate transportation and financial constraints as the main barriers limiting participation for this underserved population.

Richmond Aging and Engaging is more than a typical nonprofit organization.

It is a vital lifeline for many seniors in public housing. By offering physical, cognitive and social activities, the organization not only meets an important need, but also improves the health and well-being of seniors.

To overcome barriers and help seniors succeed, Winship developed a strategic approach. She recruited volunteers to lead arts, crafts, and recreational activities. A key Richmond Aging and Engaging initiative is the rollator repair program. Winship trains volunteers to conduct safety inspections and make repairs to these mobility aids at pop-up clinics so older adults can get around safely and independently.

Winship’s optimism about the future of the organization is evident, and her plans to chair the board of directors point to positive growth. Her ultimate goal is to continue to lead the organization while managing a team of dedicated individuals who share her vision and can contribute to the work.

The organization recently acquired office space so that art materials no longer take up space in her home and she can enjoy the separation of work and personal life.

Meet Jodi Marie Winship, an advocate for the rights of the elderly and underserved and this week’s personality:

Founder: While I had the original idea for Richmond Aging and Engaging, I founded the organization with the support of our founding board of directors: Patty Slattum, Sheryl Finucane, Lauryn Walker, Lauryn Helstrom and Hannah Meinertzhagen.

Profession: Occupational Therapist and Executive Director of Richmond Aging and Engaging and Chair of the Board.

Date and place of birth: I was born in St. Louis Park, Minnesota in 1974.

Where I live now: The Fulton neighborhood of Richmond.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs, Mary Washington College; Master’s degree in Geography, Virginia Tech; Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy, VCU; Doctorate in Social and Behavioral Sciences, VCU.

Family: I live with Predrag, my partner of 20 years, our house cat Remster and Bunny, a wild cat.

Tell us about Richmond Aging and Engaging: We are a 501(c)(3) organization that provides intergenerational arts, recreation and leisure programs for seniors living in public housing. We also repair walkers so people can get around safely.

Richmond Aging and Engaging’s mission: We support the health, well-being and quality of life of older people growing old in social housing.

Through intergenerational arts, leisure and recreation programs, we ensure access to meaningful activities that foster a sense of purpose, build social connections and give older people the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest.

When was Richmond Aging and Engaging founded: August 2022.

Why I founded Richmond Aging and Engaging: While working in a community-based health and wellness program for low-income older adults, I frequently counseled my clients to be active (physically and mentally) and socially engaged to manage their chronic illnesses and stay healthy so they could age in place. But many of the people were stuck at home with nothing to do. There were senior centers and other community programs, but some people did not participate even when transportation was provided—motivational and cultural barriers remained. I founded Richmond Aging and Engaging to fill this gap and provide accessible opportunities for older adults to participate in fun activities that promote health and wellness.

Where does Richmond Aging and Engaging operate: We currently operate our arts, leisure and recreation program in two public housing buildings in Richmond (East End and North Side) and are in the process of adding a third building in the fall.

We offer pop-up walker repair clinics throughout Richmond.

Richmond Aging and Engaging is supported by: We are funded by donations, grants, sponsorships – including funding from Senior Connections and Anthem Healthkeepers – and a lot of volunteer work.

Richmond Aging and Engaging is specifically for: Our work is directed at older people living independently in low-income multi-family housing. Currently, we focus on multi-family housing designated as senior living, which is defined as people age 62 and older or younger people with disabilities.

Goal or Project No. 1: Our primary focus right now is to secure funding to hire the necessary staff to expand, develop and sustain our programs and program sites.

Strategy to achieve goals: Networking is everything. When I was teaching, I always advised my students to tell everyone they met about their plans and dreams because then someone would know someone who could help!

Challenge No. 1: It is always a challenge to find investors who are willing to take the risk for a newly founded company.

Why Richmond Aging and Engaging is particularly important: Ensuring access to health care and healthy diets is critical to reducing health inequalities in Richmond, but it is equally important to provide access to activities that promote physical, cognitive and social health.

Ways to get involved with Richmond Aging and Engaging: You can find information about our current volunteer opportunities and a volunteer inquiry form on our website. This is the first step to contacting us:

Upcoming Events: We host a free rollator repair clinic on the last Wednesday of every month from 1-3 p.m. at the VCU HealthHub on the 25th.

This is how I start my day: As soon as I have a coffee in me, I’m ready to get things checked off my to-do list! Let’s get started!

The three words that best describe me: Persistent, creative and optimistic.

If I had 10 extra minutes during the day: Have an extra cup of coffee in the morning…and drink it on the porch while bird watching.

If I were hosting a dinner party, my dream guest would be: Prince, because I grew up in Minnesota, not far from where he lived.

Best midnight snack: I like whatever is left in the fridge.

My music playlist contains a lot: Singers like Natalie Merchant, Suzanne Vega and Tori Amos.

Something I enjoy doing and that most people would never imagine: My secret vice is the horribly ridiculous reality TV show “90-Day Fiancé” and all its spin-offs.

A quote that inspires me: “If a person confidently pursues his dreams and tries to live the life he has imagined, he will achieve successes that would not have been expected in ordinary hours.” – Henry David Thoreau

At the top of my to-do list: Clean out the garage.

The best thing my parents ever taught me: How to do repairs and maintenance on my own home. Their “I can fix it myself” mentality rubbed off on me, and when I kept seeing customers with broken walkers and there was no easy way to get them fixed, I just took care of it myself – the impetus for the Rollator Repair Program!

The person who influenced me the most: Most recently, it was my friend and mentor Pam Parsons. She passed away unexpectedly last year. Pam was an influential leader in the Richmond community and an advocate for Richmond’s seniors.

A book that influenced me: A book that fundamentally changed my worldview and influenced the course of my career was “I Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala” by Elizabeth Burgos and Rigoberta Menchu.

What I’m currently reading: Out of the Ruins: The Apocalyptic Anthology edited by Preston Grassmann is a collection of short stories about what life might be like in the future, when the Earth is no longer the Earth we know.

Next destination: Find the right work-life balance!