Senior Advisory Committee

Sun, 03/06/2022 - 2:15am

Dear Friends,
In the interest of engaging the community in a critical conversation, the Senior Advisory Committee (SAC) wishes to inform our neighbors about the challenges facing island seniors and the role SAC plays in responding to them.

Our History
Created in 2007, the Senior Advisory Committee is charged by the Town of New Shoreham with providing for the needs of island seniors. Early on, the committee focused on such issues as surveying the community to determine senior needs, property tax relief, heating assistance, the need for a social worker, and creating a recreational program.

Working with a small budget to cover administrative expenses, the committee moved to improve life quality for island seniors. In 2010-2011 SAC established the position of Senior Coordinator - initially filled by Kathleen Mitchell, followed by Anna Christina Rodgers; our current coordinator, Gloria Redlich, has held the post since 2016.
Our Mission
SAC works to sustain seniors in their homes and community for as long as possible and to improve quality of life for them within the community. Our goals increasingly focus on the following areas and issues:
Caregivers: We work to match families with this service. While there are a handful of local caregivers, we have reached a near crisis point in bringing this critical resource to all seniors who need them.
Among programs we have created, we are most proud of the Senior Ride Service (SRS). With seniors facing challenges of isolation and loneliness, a transportation service allowing them to get out of their homes, make appointments, meet friends and run errands is critical in supporting their independence. We believe this service should ultimately be financed by the town.

To enhance quality of senior life, we offer a series of programs: educational, cultural, recreational, nutritional and social. We sponsor weekly luncheons (the Lunch Bunch and Soup Group), reconfigured since COVID as meals delivered monthly to some 70 households.

Before COVID we sponsored excursions to the Matunuck Theatre by the Sea, taking 60 to 90 folks to two productions each summer. We co-sponsor programs with the Alzheimer’s and Parkinson Associations as well as with Tri-County Community Action Agency in South County. We have worked, too, with the Contemporary Theatre Company of Wakefield to offer an interactive program for cognitively challenged folks.
Ongoing activities include Memoir Writing and Book Groups, Tai Chi, Seated Strengthening Exercise programs and two support groups led by a local counselor, one for caregivers and the other for people living with loss, and a music program. Since COVID, we offer them virtually, adding one in food/cooking featuring island chefs sharing favorite recipes. These programs are collaboratively run with the Library, which has consistently supported SAC goals.

Establishing a Senior Center is critical. Offering a wide variety of programs and services, senior centers serve as a “gateway to the aging network connecting older adults to vital community services,” promoting mental and physical activity, which supports good health and independence.
We advocate development of a Human Services Agency of which SAC would be but one component. For years, most of our seniors were relatively independent and required little assistance. As our senior population grows and ages, so does the need for more senior services. For years there was no
agency dedicated to senior needs on-island until SAC stepped in. We believe a more structured agency is required, working collaboratively with other island services such as the Medical Center, Director of Human Services, BIRA, the Island Free Library and NAMI-BI.

Advocating for an Adult Care Residence: to serve approximately seven or eight seniors or senior couples who can no longer manage within their own homes - to provide a facility functioning between assisted and independent living residences. It would provide housing for caregivers as well. The town has long faced the issue of inadequate housing for town employees. Developing such a residence may resolve two pressing issues: housing for seniors unable to stay at home and for critical town personnel - in caregiving and nursing, etc.
Resources and services promoting well-being and improving life quality must be available for all island residents - including our senior citizens. Serving elders, comprising one third of our population, enriches our entire community. The time has come to make senior issues a priority.
In expanding your understanding of SAC’s goals, we hope you will be inspired to join us in educating the community about senior issues and advocating for policies that will help provide the resources needed to address them.

Town budget meetings are scheduled for March 16 (overview), March 22 (community support), March 30, April 13, 20, and May 2. Please attend at least one budget session before the May meeting. Let the Council know your thoughts and opinions.
Sincerely yours,
Co-Chairs Sandra Kelly and Gail Pierce;
Senior Coordinator, Gloria Redlich;
Members Betsey DeMaggio, Judy Fucci, Dottie Graham, Ann Henault, Debbie Martin, Jennifer Phillips, Hillary Transue