Senior Connections' speakers are able to speak on many topics related to enhancing the quality of life for seniors and caregivers.
History of Senior Connections and Virginia's Aging Network
Home Retrofitting and Transitions
Health and Wellness
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a speaker, please email SeniorConnectionsspeaker@youraaa.org.
Thelma Bland Watson, Ph.D.
Senior Connections, CAAA
History of Senior Connections
Virginia's Aging Network
Thelma Bland Watson has served as Executive Director of Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging since 2002. Senior Connections, one of 25 Area Agencies on Aging, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is based in Richmond. She previously served as Assistant Executive Director of the Crater District Area Agency on Aging in Petersburg and served in several capacities with the Crater Planning District Commission. Senior Connections is a private (501c3), nonprofit organization that provides opportunities to improve the overall quality of life and health for seniors and their families, especially caregivers. The organization provides a range of home and community based services for seniors (older adults), persons with disabilities and caregivers to help eliminate isolation. Senior Connections partnered with the United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg to develop the Region’s first Age Wave Readiness Plan with a focus on promoting diversity and creating livable communities for all ages. Senior Connections is partnering with the Department of Gerontology at Virginia Commonwealth University to implement key components of the Age Wave Readiness Plan. In 2015, the Age Wave Initiative received the Valentine History Makers Award and Dr. Watson received the Humanitarian Award from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. Dr. Watson has been instrumental in implementing the No Wrong Door Service Coordination Program in Virginia.
Dr. Watson is a former Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Aging for the Commonwealth of Virginia, Department for the Aging (now a part of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services). She also served as Executive Director of Field Services for the National Committee on Social Security and Medicare in Washington, D.C. from 1997 to 2002. She currently serves on leadership Boards for the Virginia Association of Area Agencies on Aging (V4A), the Capital Area Workforce Investment Board, Central Virginia Coalition of Healthcare Providers (an Accountable Care Organization) and the Virginia Legal Services Corporation. Dr. Watson served on the Steering Committees for the 2016 and 2017 Virginia Governor’s Conferences on Aging.
Thelma Bland Watson received her undergraduate degree from Virginia State University (VSU) in Sociology with a concentration in Social Work. Dr. Watson received a graduate degree in Gerontology and a Doctorate in Public Policy and Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). She also received certifications from the Virginia Executive Institute and the National Long-Term Care Institute. Dr. Watson has more than 30 years experience in nonprofit leadership, health care management and service delivery for older adults and caregivers.
Ms. Michelle Johnson
County Administrator for Charles City County
Chair, Board of Directors, Senior Connections, CAAA
Michelle Johnson is the County Administrator for Charles City County, appointed by the Honorable Board of Supervisors in June of 2017. She is the first African American Female native of Charles City to serve as the County Administrator.
She was educated by the Charles City County School system and furthered her education at Virginia State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting. She is also a graduate of Leadership Metro Richmond class of 2016.
Michelle worked in corporate America and state government for several years after graduating. She began her public service career in Charles City County in 2003 and has enjoyed every minute. She is passionate about her position as a public servant and assisting the Citizens of Charles City with opportunities for a better way of life. She is a hard worker who is dedicated to working for the Citizens of Charles City County, and her goal is to help build a community we’re proud to call home.
Michelle currently represents Charles City County on several boards and commissions and serves as the Chairman of the Board for Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging.
Outside of work Michelle is the proud mother of Victor Johnson, Jr. and watching him play baseball for Benedictine College Preparatory and the Richmond Braves is her favorite thing to do.
Mr. John T. Robertson
Home Retrofitting and Transitions
John received his first “S.O.S.” medical call while working with a Fortune 500 company in New Jersey – his father had suffered a sudden and debilitating stroke back home in Richmond, Virginia. After a week in the hospital, John’s father was sent home, still unable to walk or climb stairs. He was confined to a hospital bed in a small den on the first floor of his house with only a half-bath. Life was difficult. He was too well to be in the hospital or a nursing home, but too sick to be home. His wife became his primary care giver and she was wearing down. Their house was not designed to accommodate a person with mobility issues, bedridden the majority of the time. After several months, John left his job in New Jersey and relocated back to Richmond to help the family care for his father. His dad died from a second stroke a few weeks after John returned home. Twenty three years later, John received his second S.O.S. medical call – one every parent dreads. His twenty year old son had fallen and suffered a severe head injury that would require immediate, emergency surgery. His surgery was successful; however, when his son was released from the hospital, John found his own house totally inadequate to accommodate his son’s temporary mobility limitations. The living room was transformed into a makeshift bedroom with only a half-bath located on the same floor. Fortunately, after a few weeks, his son was able to climb stairs to his bedroom on the 2nd floor, with better and safer bathroom accommodations, where he could fully recover from his injury. John says he now has a first-hand understanding of how unexpected, acute medical crises can impact a family. Trying to re-arrange a house during an emergency only adds stress to an already difficult situation. A little advance planning and investment can avoid some of this stress. As a custom builder for twenty-five years, John has helped many clients and friends plan for the future, designing homes and additions with first floor bedrooms and baths, safety features like lever handle door knobs, rocker light switches, curbless showers and decorative grab bars. He has installed numerous mobility aids like elevators, lifts and barrier free entries. John has found that these features can appeal to people of any age and make life easier and safer in the home while adding value in the process. John has been building homes for thirty years under the Robertson & Co. Custom Builders name. He has a Class A contractors license and has earned his Certified Aging-in-Place (CAPS) designation from the National Association of Home Builders. He is a member of the Green Energy Council. His projects have been featured in Southern Living and Traditional Homes magazines. Several of his projects have been on the Virginia Historic Garden Tour and one of his development projects received the annual Preservation Merit Award from Henrico County. John is a board member of Senior Connections. He helped the Greater Richmond United Way develop the Regional AgeWave Plan and he remains an active member of the Virginia Age Wave Coalition. John is a graduate of the University of Virginia (BA) and the Darden School of Business (MBA).
Mrs. Angie Phelon
Director of Business and Service Development
Senior Connections, CAAA
Angie Phelon is the Director of Business and Service Development Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Human Services and Psychology from Elon University and her Master of Science in Gerontology from Virginia Commonwealth University. In her current position, she has oversight of the following programs: Care Coordination, Public Relations, Caregiver Support and Care Transitions. Her past experiences include management of a home care agency for six years. She also supervised and coordinated the integration of two local home care agencies following an acquisition. In addition, she has over ten years of experience as a nursing home administrator and led the accreditation initiatives for a nursing home and two continuing care retirement communities.
Ms. Missy Boyer
Director of Nutrition and Wellness
Senior Connections, CAAA
Health and Wellness
Ms. Boyer has more than 20 years of experience working in nutritional food service management in both the private for profit and not for profit sector. Since May 2008, she has served as the Director of Nutrition and Wellness Program for Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging. In this capacity, Ms. Boyer leads a dedicated team of professionals that support 20 Friendship Cafes with over 500 participants throughout the Greater Richmond Area as well as over 700 Home Delivered Meals clients. She is very familiar with the No Wrong Door Program and the software, Peerplace. Ms. Boyer works with No Wrong Door partner, FeedMore, to facilitate data collection and program reporting. Ms. Boyer is a graduate of Leadership Metro Richmond. Ms. Boyer is a member of the Area Planning and Service Committee for Aging with Lifelong Disabilities. Ms. Boyer supports and provides input for The Greater Richmond Age Wave, Chesterfield County Age Wave and Active Aging Week. Ms. Boyer presented at the 2018 conference of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging on the topic of Advocacy in the Aging Network. Ms. Boyer received her degree in Business Administration and Management from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Mrs. Heather Fortune
Manager, Virginia Insurance Couseling and Insurance Program (VICAP)
Senior Connections, CAAA
Medicare and Medicaid
Heather Fortune is the Virginia Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program (VICAP) Manager with Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging. She received her Bachelor of Science in Human Services with a minor in psychology from Old Dominion University in 2014. She also interned in social work at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU on the Transitional Care Unit. Her commitment and abilities were highlighted in Caring Voice Coalition’s quarterly magazine, Community in Spring 2015. Additionally she has published articles including Medicare misconceptions, Community magazine Summer 2017 and FAQ’s on health insurance, Community magazine Fall 2017. In her current position, she works to implement person centered practices to help Medicare beneficiaries and caregivers gain needed information and resolve problems to enroll in and effectively use Medicare and related programs. Heather is also the local Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) Coordinator and manages VICAP and SMP outreach activities with community organizations, groups and the general public.
Mrs. Marilyn H. West
Chief Operating Officer
M.H. West Company, Inc.
Marilyn House West grew up in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, a small community outside of Pittsburgh. Her parents, William and Viola taught her that the “sky is the limit” about what she could accomplish. Marilyn has continued on a pathway of success that was evident in her early years as a scholastic standout, athlete and leader. She is in her High School Hall of Fame, a distinguished alumna and trustee of Waynesburg University, and earned a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health. She has an administrative hearing officer certificate from the Law School of the College of William and Mary and a graduate of programs such as Leadership Metro Virginia and the Virginia Executive Institute. She is passionate about many causes and it is evident through her extensive volunteer work. Marilyn is proud of her consulting company, M.H. West & Co., Inc. founded in 1991 and the team of talented professionals who have joined her. She has been recognized as one of the Power Players in Richmond, Top 40 Persons of the Year in Waynesburg University Board of Trustees Chair, Ferrum College Trustee, Senior Center of Greater Richmond Board Chair, Venture Richmond Board of Directors and YWCA Outstanding Woman. . Advises and consults on matters involving operations, development, structure, regulations and strategy. Has more than 40 years of experience working with CEOs, executive management and governance of public and private sector businesses including corporations, medical care facilities, health care systems, federal, state and local governmental agencies, law firms and professional and trade associations. Marilyn is married with two adult children and two grandchildren. She is a digital artist and an avid tennis and bridge player and fishing enthusiast.