Happy Older Americans Month! Here at the Department of Aging and Community Living, we celebrate you every day of the year, but during the month of May, we’ll be spending even more time celebrating all of your contributions to community and to this city. I always say that D.C. is the best city in the world to age — and you make it so. It’s fitting that we recognize and honor Ms. E. Veronica Pace during Older Americans Month. I was saddened to hear that Ms. Pace, former executive director of the D.C. Office on Aging (1983 – 1991 and 1997 – 2006), passed away recently. Ms. Pace led the way for this city to be a place where our older Washingtonians are active, engaged, and contributing to our community every day.
I saw Ms. Pace in February at Congress Heights Senior Wellness Center. She made a surprise visit to witness Mayor Muriel Bowser signing legislation officially designating the DC Office on Aging, as the Department of Aging and Community Living — a cause she championed since her days working under former Mayor Marion Barry. Her presence filled the room, just like her presence filled the city during her 35+ year career serving District residents.
Ms. Pace was a lifelong Washingtonian who left an indelible mark on the city. A graduate of Dunbar High School, who earned Howard University undergraduate and School of Social Work degrees, her first job was working for District government. As a social worker, she oversaw some of the toughest cases around mental health, maternal and infant care, and public health. As a leader, she transformed the small DC Office on Aging to a premier government agency and a role model for other states across the nation.
She brought senior wellness to D.C., established the nation’s first free standing Senior Wellness Center — Washington Senior Wellness Center in Ward 7 — and was instrumental in opening five other wellness centers across the city which continue to operate today. Ms. Pace was a tireless advocate for reducing health disparities across the city for the District’s older residents, and launched numerous programs and services for seniors and caregivers who are often overlooked but critical in making sure seniors can live in the communities they know and love. The majority of programs started by Ms. Pace continue to serve residents today.
Ms. Pace was a public servant at her core, and a relentless champion for District seniors. We will all miss her energy, her spirit of advocacy, and her drive for doing what’s right for the city and for our older residents. She would occasionally visit us at the Hayes Senior Wellness Center and comment, “I know every brick in this building.” Similarly, she knew every corner of the city, the history of the Department of Aging and Community Living, and how critical our work is in supporting our seniors. She was fiercely loyal to Washington, D.C., and that meant that she was fiercely loyal to seniors. She went from place to place in this city exhorting everyone she saw, whether politicians, business leaders, or journalists, to “take care of our seniors.” Thank you, Ms. Pace — for everything.
During Older Americans Month, I encourage you to join in one, or several of the activities planned throughout the city. Take a look at the event calendar and give us a call if you need help deciding. Connect with your community, create something new, and celebrate the contributions you’ve made and continue to make — in doing so, you’ll be celebrating the life and legacy of E. Veronica Pace.
See you out in the community!