Sunday, May 31, 2015

"Aging in Place" Draws Large Audience

by Lorrie Hoeh

Peter Morelli, AARP
On Thursday, May 21, a large and enthusiastic group attended the To Your Health program, “Aging in Place.” Speakers were Peter Morelli, representing AARP and its work on age-friendly communities; Julie Allaire, representing Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Arundel and their age-friendly network; and Joe Perkins, representing At Home Downeast in Washington and Hancock Counties.

Morelli noted that our median age is rising, as 18,250 people per year turn 65 in Maine. Some issues to be addressed include transportation, housing of continuing long-term care, family and caregiver support, and elder abuse. AARP is trying to address these issues without government support, by encouraging volunteer programs in communities. Morelli mentioned Bowdoinham, a member of AARP’s age-friendly communities, noting that their plan can be found on the town’s website.
Julie Allaire, Kennebunk's age-friendly network
Julie Allaire advised that a community start “where you are.” This involves identifying and assessing assets. People need to know what services are available and how to access them locally. She recommends organizing a working group to coordinate a health care network which might include a gerontologist, an attorney, and other health care providers. Assessing local needs is also key.

The last presenter was Joe Perkins from At Home Downeast. He noted that each community is unique, and what works for one may not work for all. To quote Perkins, “If you’ve seen one village, you’ve seen one village.” Joe stressed the importance of volunteers. He pointed out that the Blue Hill Peninsula consists of nine towns comprising 14,000 residents year-round. Perkins said that the Washington Hancock Community Agency, of which At Home Downeast is a subset, does have a paid staff consisting of a program manager, social worker, and volunteer coordinator.

Joe Perkins, At Home Downeast
At Home Downeast has a sliding-scale membership fee of $130 to $1,300 annually. Paying a fee helps to fight the reluctance of some to ask for help. The membership fee entitles one to four rides per month within a 50-mile radius; contract with Eastern Maine Home Care for twice a month visits; help with grocery shopping; prescription delivery; phone check-in or home visit; home safety assessment; all available with a single phone number.

Reaction to this presentation was that the Bethel area has many assets, and with some organization and volunteer work, this could be a truly age-friendly community.

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at