From sand buckets for seniors to a community resource guide, the Augusta Age Friendly Committee is engaged with many organizations, initiatives and local events.
There is expressed support for constructing benches as a form of public art as well as being used as resting places for seniors and those with limited mobility. Benches at select locations are the biggest need for residents, second only to improved transportation options. The committee is looking for businesses, residents and organizations to step up and donate a bench and be recognized for their support and contribution. We are also reviewing walkability, including safety of sidewalks near senior housing, pedestrian crossings at the roundabouts and an educational demonstration for seniors at crossing lights with the Augusta police resource officer.
Augusta residents named transportation as an area of major concern, so Age Friendly has joined with other communities here in Maine and in Tennessee to study a low-cost rural volunteer driver pilot program offered by a Maine transportation company, ITNAmerica. Three committee members will be engaged in this program for the next five to six months as we investigate the best options for Augusta residents.
Two-thirds of our survey respondents live in single-family homes where they want to remain, but we also have the oldest housing stock, combined with a fast aging community, and that translates to many residents needing help with low-cost home modification or repairs. It might be as simple as changing a light bulb that you can no longer reach, so Age Friendly is working with a local organization to see if we can address this issue with affordable improvement opportunities.
We have a subcommittee being set up to combat isolation by getting our citizens more involved with social participation. This is a recommendation put forth by Augusta Mayor David Rollins to create the fabric of a social environment that includes people of all abilities and ages. We hope everyone comes out to join in the activities as this committee rolls them out. Our Age Friendly chairman also is involved with our school community through its Future Search committee, investigating opportunities for intergenerational interaction with students, as well as meeting with the Boys and Girls Club at the Buker Community Center to do the same.
Additional initiatives are in the works in the areas of respect and social inclusion, civic participation, communication and community support as Augusta Age Friendly continues to add members to our eight subcommittees to work on them. You can find out about each subcommittee by going on the United Way volunteer need website.
We are continuing our community outreach sticker campaign to get businesses to display their support on their doors and have put the concept of a certified age-friendly business program to the Chamber of Commerce. Our research has found that those businesses that are age-friendly have more customers walking through their doors. If your business needs a sticker or wants to learn about the business program, contact us on our Facebook page.
The committee also is involved with several scheduled community events as part of our outreach, including an AARP shredding event with the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office on April 29 at 125 State St., the Age Friendly day on May 16 in the Hall of Flags at the State House, the Spectrum Generations Health Expo on June 9 at the Cohen Center in Hallowell, and the Kennebec River Rail Trail Annual Race on June 25. See you there!
Bob MacDougall is a retiree, resides in Augusta and is a volunteer for the Meals on Wheels program and AARP, often on legislative issues affecting seniors at the State House. He is chairman of the Augusta Age Friendly initiative as well as being on the AARP state advisory board. This is the first of occasional updates on the program.