ISOLATION IS A worrisome issue for many in our aging society, especially in a rural environment.

As we age, our circle of friends is often reduced by several factors such as downsizing to a new neighborhood, new city or new state; health issues; lack of transportation; and yes, death. Those left behind may withdraw more and more into themselves, but still have the desire to be one with the community, to be involved with others, to make a difference in their lives and in their community. It is incumbent on the community to keep this spark alive, to fan the flames of community service and participation.

Augusta’s over 50 population overwhelmingly wants to live out their lives right here in our community, many seeking paid employment and/or volunteer opportunities, something that our capital city offers in abundance.

We first think of civic participation as our ability to vote, and in Augusta we have absentee ballots, early voting, four polling places staffed by volunteers, a city website with voting details of where, when and who as well as an extremely helpful city clerk’s office to help guide and direct everyone. Beyond voting, the city has many boards and committees (think age-friendly committee) to help research and guide our elected officials. All you must do is let the city manager’s office know you are interested and sign up.

In addition, being the capital city, we are home to many non-profits and organizations, a new hospital and a cancer center, a beautiful library, any number of religious organizations, food banks and shelters, all of which gladly accept volunteer time and expertise as well as having volunteer staff to show you the ropes.

What about paid employment? Our survey shows this is an area where we are lacking in the hiring and training of senior citizens, where our employers need to step up and reach out to the senior population. There are many who still want a paid job, still need a paid job. This segment of the population is smart, experienced, trainable and always willing to show up on time to give 100 percent. Augusta is fortunate to have several big box stores and grocery chains employing senior citizens, and others should not overlook this gold mine of opportunity.

Everyone has heard the adage “all roads lead to Rome.” Well in our instance, “all opportunities require transportation.” Escaping the dungeon of isolation through volunteer or paid work and community participation here in our societal environment requires a better public transportation system than we currently have, so the need is paramount to get us to help ourselves out and improve upon our public transportation options.

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 serves as chairman of the Augusta Age Friendly initiative as well as being on the AARP state advisory board. This is the second of a series of eight columns about the initiative.

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