Alexandria’s 2019 Living Legends
By Jeanne Theismann
ALEXANDRIA,VA- Jane King has been a fixture in Alexandria for nearly 40 years. She had moved around a lot growing up due to her father’s job as an engineer, so when she had a chance to settle down, Jane chose our city.
“I have loved every minute of being in Alexandria,” she says. This is reflected in her invaluable contributions to making Alexandria a livable community for older adults.
King developed her interest in creating livable communities for the aging during eight years working at AARP. “I was still in my 50s,” says the 78-year-old King, “and [my interest] has only continued to grow.”
Jane is currently the chair of At Home Alexandria, a nonprofit organization that provides practical, social, and emotional support to Alexandria residents ages 55+. AHA is a membership organization based on the “village” concept, which helps older adults age in place.
“AHA gives those who want to stay in their homes as long as possible the assistance they need to do so,” King says. “One extremely important aspect is social activities. That is vital to our members.”
Before working with AHA, King served for four years as chair of the Commission on Aging and in that role spearheaded the development and implementation of the Alexandria Strategic Plan on Aging, which was approved by City Council in 2012. The plan included affordable housing, accessible transportation, workforce development, access to community services, contributions from older residents as volunteers, and health and safety.
“This was a plan to make Alexandria a livable community for all ages,” King says. “The original plan expired in 2017 so we decided to apply to join the AARP/World Health Organization’s Network of Age-Friendly Communities.”
Under King’s leadership, Alexandria was the first city in Virginia to be accepted into the network. She was chief architect of the City’s Age-Friendly Plan for a Livable Community, approved by the City Council and AARP. It is scheduled to be in effect through 2021.
“The plan calls for Alexandria to increase the availability of affordable, accessible housing, which is a huge effort,” King says. “It also addresses transportation, health and service needs, communications, and enhancing outreach to our very diverse population. Many older residents do not know the services available to them.”
Jane King has been an active volunteer for AARP for more than 13 years, working with programs that help participants adapt their homes for their older years.
“Northern Virginia has a large team of AARP volunteers,” says King. “We are one of more than 300 members in the Network of Age-Friendly Communities across the country.”
King has also been a state advocate for AARP and a legislative coordinator for the Northern Virginia Aging Network. “Each year we develop a platform with six priorities that we recommend to our general assembly members,” King says. “We present three legislative and three budget priorities that are important to older Virginians.”
In 2013, Jane was recognized for her community service with the AARP Virginia President’s award. In 2015, she was honored with the Commission on Aging’s Annie B. Rose Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes the significant contributions of an individual who has demonstrated exemplary achievements in community service, particularly in the advancement of social justice and aging concerns.
“While the recognition is nice, the work itself is what gives me the greatest satisfaction,” King says. “I love being engaged in the community and getting to know people who share my interest in aging issues. The friendships among those of us who share this interest is an unexpected pleasure and inspires us all to continue.”
Jane King has one daughter, three stepsons, two granddaughters, and four step grandchildren. She and her husband of 27 years, David Peters, live in Del Ray.
“It’s important to stay engaged in life and the community,” she says. “Being engaged provides some of the same satisfaction that you get when you are working. Engaging your brain uses some of the skills you acquired in your career.”
Her advice for the older community? “Retirement can be difficult for some people. Plan ahead and choose carefully what you want to do as far as volunteering or a second career,” she says. “Don’t forget to leave time for fun. Travel if you can. It’s important to find a balance and leave time for yourself. By far the worst thing to do in retirement is not to plan anything at all.”
Living Legends: The Initiative
The mission of Living Legends of Alexandria, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is to identify, honor, and chronicle the lives of individuals who have made significant contributions to improve the quality of life in Alexandria. This initiative was conceived and the organization founded in 2006 by Living Legend Nina Tisara in order to create an enduring, documented record of the people whose vision and dedication made a positive, tangible difference to the quality of life in the City of Alexandria, VA. For information, to volunteer, become a sponsor or nominate a future Legend, visit www.AlexandriaLegends.org or contact AlexandriaLegends@outlook.com.