For many seniors, growing old means losing little by little the community connections built up over a lifetime. Across the state, Mainers are working to give some of it back.

In South Portland, volunteers are delivering free 5-gallon buckets of sand to help seniors and others with mobility issues deal with icy spots around their homes.

It’s the first project of the city’s Age-Friendly Initiative, and after expecting 40 to 50 requests, they got nearly 240. The group is also looking at projects related to home maintenance, transportation and access to public spaces, among others, the Press Herald reported this week.

Each project is aimed at an area of life where seniors can become limited as their ability to get around, and their support network, diminishes.

If they can’t drive, for instance, and they don’t have friends or family members nearby to help them, then they won’t be able to get to the store or the doctor’s office, or out to eat, or to the community center. It cuts them off from the wider world, affecting their health and well-being, and lowering their quality of life.

South Portland is one of 70 communities in Maine that are part of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, a formal process that commits them to exploring the needs of their seniors and using tax dollars to meet them.

It’s not the only way to address those issues, but it is thoughtful, comprehensive and evidence-based. Coming out of a period when state government failed to focus on Maine’s aging population, the AARP’s program has been embraced by individual communities — Maine has the highest number of Age-Friendly Communities, and is one of six Age-Friendly States.

Groups are recording the histories of seniors in Auburn, loaning out from a “tool library” and helping out with home maintenance in Mount Vernon, and offering assistance with using computers in Saco. In Cumberland, a program helps seniors get to the bank, supermarket, pharmacy and other appointments, as well as social engagements. Bowdoinham and Dover-Foxcroft have both created accessible community centers where seniors can gather.

(For more information on these and other AARP projects in Maine, call 1-866-554-5380 or email [email protected].)

These actions are a bulwark against the forces of isolation and the indignities of aging. Sometimes, because of physical health or geography, seniors can’t get out of their homes. Sometimes, there’s nowhere to go to find meaningful interactions with other members of the community.

Sometimes the handy work necessary around the house, or just day-to-day chores, get to be too much. Sometimes, seniors don’t have the assistance they need to live as independently as possible.

Those circumstances shouldn’t doom someone to a less than fulfilling life. We’re happy to see so many Maine communities taking action on behalf of their aging residents. Residents should support these efforts, and other communities should emulate them.


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