Personality: Dr. Jodi Marie Winship

Spotlight on Richmond Aging and Engaging founder

6/27/2024, 6 p.m.
As a passionate advocate for older adults, Dr. Jodi Marie Winship’s story is a testament to the power of one …

As a passionate advocate for older adults, Dr. Jodi Marie Winship’s story is a testament to the power of one person’s determination to make a difference — and it’s her dedication to the health, wellness and quality of life of older adults in low-income housing that led her to establish Richmond Aging and Engaging.

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

Richmond Aging and Engaging serves as more than a typical nonprofit organization.

For many older adults in low-income housing, it’s a vital lifeline. By offering physical, cognitive and social activities, the organization not only fills a critical need but also enhances the health and well-being of seniors.

To overcome obstacles and empower seniors to thrive, Winship developed a strategic approach. She recruited volunteers to lead arts, crafts and recreational activities. A key initiative of Richmond Aging and Engaging is its rollator repair program. Winship trains volunteers to conduct safety inspections and perform repairs on these mobility aids at pop-up clinics, ensuring older adults can move about safely and independently.

Winship’s optimism about the organization’s future is clear, and her plans to transition from board chair signal positive growth. Her ultimate goal is to continue leading 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, which  means the art supplies no longer take up space in her home, and she enjoys having the separation of her work and home lives.

Meet an advocate for the aging and underserved and this week’s Personality, Jodi Marie Winship:

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

Occupation: Occupational therapist and executive director of Richmond Aging and Engaging, and also the board president.

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

Where I live now: The Fulton neighborhood of Richmond.

Education: Bachelor’s in international affairs, Mary Washington College; master’s in geography, Virginia Tech; master’s in occupational therapy, VCU; doctorate in social and behavioral sciences, VCU.

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

Tell us about Richmond Aging and Engaging: We are a 501(c)(3) organization that provides intergenerational arts, leisure, and recreational programming for older adults living in low-income apartments. We also fix rollators to ensure folks can safely move around.

Richmond Aging and Engaging’s mission: We support the health, wellness, and quality of life of older adults aging-in-place in low-income housing.

Through intergenerational art, leisure, and recreational programming, we ensure access to meaningful activities that foster a sense of purpose, build social connections and empower older adults to live their best lives.

When was Richmond Aging and Engaging founded: August 2022.

Why did I found Richmond Aging and Engaging: While working in a community-based health and wellness program for low-income older adults, I frequently advised clients that to manage their chronic illnesses and to stay healthy so they could age in place, they needed to be active (physically and cognitively) and socially engaged. But many of the folks were stuck at home with nothing to do. Senior centers and other community programs were available, but some folks still weren’t engaging even with transportation provided – motivational and cultural barriers persisted. I founded Richmond Aging and Engaging to address this gap and offer barrier-free opportunities for older adults to engage in fun activities that support health and wellbeing.

Where does Richmond Aging and Engaging operate: We currently conduct our art, leisure, and recreation program in two low-income apartment buildings in Richmond (East End and North Side) and are about to add a third building this fall.

We hold rollator repair pop-up clinics throughout Richmond.

Richmond Aging and Engaging is funded: We are funded through donations, grants, sponsorships—including funding from Senior Connections and Anthem Healthkeepers— and a lot of volunteer service.

Richmond Aging and Engaging is specifically for: Our work is for older adults living independently in low-income apartment buildings. We currently target apartment buildings designated as senior housing, which is defined as people 62 and over or younger folks with disabilities.

No. 1 goal or project: Our primary focus right now is securing funding to hire essential staff, which will enable us to expand, develop and sustain our programs and program sites.

Strategy for achieving goals: Networking is everything. Back when I was teaching, I used to advise my students to tell everyone they encountered what their plans and dreams were because someone would know someone else who could help!

No. 1 challenge: Finding funders willing to take a risk on a start-up organization is always a challenge.

Why Richmond Aging and Engaging is especially important: Ensuring access to health care and healthy food is crucial for addressing health disparities in Richmond. But equally important is providing access to activities that promote physical, cognitive and social health.

Ways to get involved with Richmond Aging and Engaging: Our website has information on our current volunteer opportunities and includes a volunteer interest form, which is the first step to connecting with us agingandengaging.org/for-volunteers.

Upcoming events: We hold a free rollator repair clinic the last Wednesday of each month at the VCU HealthHub at 25th from 1 to 3 p.m.

How I start the day: Once I get some coffee in me, I’m ready to start knocking things off my to-do list! Bring it on!

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

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

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

Best late-night snack: I like whatever leftovers are in the fridge.

My music playlist is heavy on: Singers like Natalie Merchant, Suzanne Vega and Tori Amos.

Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: My guilty pleasure is the horribly ridiculous reality TV show, “90-Day Fiancé,” along with all its offshoots.

A quote that inspires me: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” – Henry David Thoreau

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

The best thing my parents ever taught me: How to do my own home repairs and maintenance. Their “I can fix it myself” mentality rubbed off on me, so when I kept seeing clients with broken rollators and no simple process to get them repaired, I just took care of it myself—the impetus of the Rollator Repair Program!

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

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

What I’m reading now: “Out of the Ruins: The Apocalyptic Anthology” edited by Preston Grassmann. It’s a collection of short stories about what life might look like in the future when Earth is no longer the Earth as we know it.

Next goal: Finding work-life balance!