A Special Interview: February 2023
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing Baltimore County Dept. of Aging?
The population is aging. One in four residents of Baltimore County is over the age of 60 and that number continues to grow. Our role becomes more critical than ever to work proactively to help older adults live their best quality of life. Empowering individuals to take control of their health, finances and living environment before they face a crisis is our biggest challenge.
How have mental health needs shown up in your work and what are some strategies in place to address it?
COVID brought its own challenges to what was already an issue of social isolation and loneliness. We have characteristically seen depression and isolation because the aging experience can come with retiring and losing the social network associated with co-workers, deaths of spouses and other relatives, and mobility and health changes. Add to that the times of quarantining and avoiding contact for fear of contracting COVID and we have a major issue.
Our 21 senior centers offer the opportunity for socialization, support groups and educational activities related to life changes and depression. We also offer:
- Meals served daily at our senior centers and partnering community sites for a chance to dine with friends.
- Individual counseling services offered through our community partners.
- A friendly visitor program called HomeTeam, which pairs volunteers of any age with homebound older adults to provide a weekly visit or phone call.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer can call 410-887-4141.
How can leaders support the Department of Aging?
Leaders can support our efforts by collaborating with BCDA to provide programs and services that can enhance the quality of life of our community’s older adults. Additionally, volunteering on our local Senior Center Council Boards or the Commission on Aging to share expertise is invaluable. Leaders can also be sensitive to the needs of their workforce who may be caregiving for an older relative and also offer pre-retirement seminars which focus not just on the financial and benefit elements of retirement but also the future planning of what they will spend their time doing and how to access the Department of Aging programs and services.
Visit our website at baltimorecountymd.gov/aging to see the wealth of opportunities or reach out to me at LRiley@baltimorecountymd.gov.
What life experience has most shaped who you are as a leader?
I have worked with many leaders in my 37-year career at Baltimore County. I believe that I gained valuable qualities from each of them. I observed from my many levels in the agency, and developed my own style based on how their leadership made me feel as an employee.
I incorporated what made me feel valued and engaged and avoided what was alienating and disingenuous. Ultimately, this developed into my servant leadership style.
In your opinion, what personal trait is most important to being a good leader and why?
Openness. Openness to different viewpoints, opinions, experiences, traditions and cultures. A good leader has to acknowledge that they are not the smartest or the most creative because they will miss the vast contributions others bring to the table.