Hello from Holly…
What are Age-Friendly Communities?
Towns across Maine are becoming more aware that their populations are getting older. Forward-thinking towns such as Bethel, Rangeley, Bowdoinham, and Harpswell are joining a growing movement of locales becoming “Age Friendly.”
What does this mean exactly and why is it important? It’s a critical look at how easy or difficult it is for older adults (and those with disabilities of all ages) to remain in their own homes in their town and remain connected and involved in community life. Once the critical assessment of the town has happened, a community comes together to make life in their town better for everyone. This might include looking at zoning to be sure smaller or shared housing is available close to downtown, establishing a Friendly Caller program to check on those who are homebound, recognizing the great wealth of talent available with retirees, and creating opportunities for volunteers to improve their community by doing such things as helping each other with home repairs, tutoring children, or providing transportation to people who can’t drive.
SeniorsPlus is in Year Two of a Maine Health Access Foundation Thriving in Place grant, to work toward Age Friendliness with the towns of Rangeley and Farmington. Rangeley has an active working group (HELP: Helping Elders Live in Place). They have a Friendly Caller program and have opened a social Adult Day Program to give caregivers a break. In Farmington SeniorsPlus has partnered with Foster Tech at Mt. Blue High School to open a dining site for older adults to socialize and enjoy a nutritious meal prepared and served by the school’s culinary arts students. An additional dining site will open at the Community Center this winter to provide hot, nutritious meals, social and educational programs for older adults and adults with disabilities.
Forward-looking towns are understanding the need to find ways to keep their community members well, healthy, and connected. For a great tool to get you and your community started on the conversation about becoming Age Friendly, check out AARP’s Age Friendly Toolkit: www.aarp.org/livable-communities.
Holly Zielinski is the Director of Community Services for SeniorsPlus