EDITORIALS

There’s now 1 less excuse for your town to not help older adults

Posted June 02, 2016, at 11:36 a.m.

In the Rangeley area, the Helping Elders Live in Place group is connecting seniors, checking on their safety and supporting caregivers. In Aroostook County, the Thriving in Place initiative aims to help older people with chronic health conditions remain in their home and community as they age. In Bar Harbor, Island Connections drives people to medical appointments and errands and delivers meals to people in need.

There are about 100 communities across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont that are known to be working in specific ways to help their older residents. Each follows a slightly different model, based on the resources and needs in their area, and they continue to evolve and grow.

Some follow a “village” model, where members typically pay to join and get services from volunteers who may also be members. Others follow an “age-friendly community” model, where towns and cities pursue development and planning — such as for housing and transportation — with support for older adults as a priority.

Regardless of the model, however, the most important thing is that these municipalities are doing something to improve the lives of their older residents, who face particular challenges of isolation, health and mobility.

Now there’s less of an excuse for other communities to not follow suit.

Recently, the Tri-State Learning Collaborative on Aging, made up of partnerships in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, launched a website to showcase local and regional efforts. The site, agefriendly.community/afc, has valuable contact information and details about many initiatives, with more to come. It offers guidance for how communities and individuals can start their own local push. And it provides links to valuable tools, such as webinars on assessing the demographics and needs of a community.

The Tri-State Learning Collaborative on Aging also offers regular, interactive forums for community leaders to learn how to develop aging-friendly communities, plus an online discussion group.

It’s essential for local people to be involved in local decisions, but the current patchwork of efforts can also create redundancies and inefficiencies. That’s why this move to connect communities is so important. The programs that have been around for a while have valuable information to share, and they can also benefit from technical and programmatic support as they expand. To include your own community profile in the online network, you can complete this survey: http://bit.ly/agecommunity. Anyone can benefit from learning what various areas are working on.

As the state grows older, it will become even more important for communities to have infrastructure to support their aging residents. Many things that are good for the old — available transportation, housing close to restaurants and stores, a forward-looking community — are also good for the young. How would you like to see your community change to support you as you age? This is a time when your voice can really shape how future generations are cared for.

 

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