WINCHESTER, Va. (WDVM) — The population growth in the northern Shenandoah Valley has presented the region with a number of challenges. Tending to the needs of seniors and people with disabilities is being met head-on.

It’s been serving the region for almost four decades. With the population explosion in the Winchester, Virginia area, helping senior citizens live independently has fallen on a nonprofit, Access Independence.

“Independent living is our motto, promoting that. And it’s just so basic that with little simple changes how people can stay in their home,” Charles Harbaugh IV, executive director of Access Independence, said.

Access Independence takes a proactive approach to help seniors navigate their way through the community so they don’t have to overburden public sector social services.

“What resources are out there, you know, transportation, housing, employment, assistive technology – we help with all of that,” Stephanie Pine with Access Independence said.

Harbaugh says there is a huge upside to the strategy of helping seniors stay in their own homes instead of resorting to expensive assisted living centers.

“There’s a lot of data that says that people who live in their own home live healthier, happier, longer lives and that’s what we want.” Harbaugh said. “We want the clients in this region, the northern Shenandoah Valley, to stay in their own home as long as possible.”

Access Independence is hands-on for their clients to remain “independent”.

“Advocacy, skills training, peer support is what we specialize in,” said Pine.

The nonprofit even helps with personal financial responsibilities like managing utility and medical bills and working with community leaders to accommodate those with disabilities.

“You know, we’re a great advocate for folks with disabilities and we make sure buildings, community buildings, are accessible in those regions for people with disabilities,” Harbaugh said.

The website for Access Independence is handicapped-accessible. Access Independence serves Clarke, Frederick, Warren, Page and Shenandoah counties and the City of Winchester.