The Block Island Times

Senior Advisory Committee reflects on its mission

By Gloria S. Redlich | Dec 26, 2013

In trying to evaluate the difficulty of finding a senior coordinator, members of the Senior Advisory Committee (SAC) began an informal review of its goals during its Dec. 17 meeting.

As originally developed, the committee was formed to address the needs — social, emotional and physical — of the town’s senior population. To that end, the group sought — by its own definition — to improve the quality of life for seniors through the promotion of programs for sustaining good health and well-being. To achieve that goal, the committee committed itself to provide support where needed, to sponsor events and activities to encourage getting people out of their homes and to advocate for necessary social services, such as tax relief and heating assistance.

“I’m baffled [about the disinterest in the coordinator’s position] — perhaps we’re not offering enough money or people are just too busy,” President Gail Pierce said. Last year, the group employed a senior coordinator who oversaw many of these undertakings. However, with her resignation in the spring, the group has been puzzling over the committee’s future direction.

“Perhaps we need to rethink what we’re here for,” member Sandy Kelly said.

“What we should really be doing is addressing and [identifying] the people who really need help within the community, to find a way to get in to help those who are in need,” said Dottie Graham. “Kelly suggested getting in touch with the South County Community Action agency in Wakefield — to see if they could offer guidelines.

“We are concerned with the need for socialization, with physical needs and reaching out to people who may find themselves alone,” President Gail Pierce said. Betsey DiMaggio asked, “Why can’t we provide transportation for people wanting to go to the Lunch Bunch or Soup Group? In fact, couldn’t we prepare and deliver meals to those who cannot get out of the house?”

“There’s a population of persons with Alzheimer’s here, what about some programming for them?” Graham asked. DiMaggio said, “We have to think about reaching people.” With the members agreeing, Pierce summarized what SAC could immediately offer.

“Let’s highlight that transportation will be available beginning in January and February.” Persons wishing to attend the Lunch Bunch on Tuesdays should call either Kelly at 466-5208 or DiMaggio at 466-2339 or to attend the Soup Group on Fridays, they should call Debbie Martin at 466-5224.

In another matter, the committee discussed its plans to go before the Town Council on the issue of a town-wide notification system. Kelly and Ann Henault have been working together on preparing a packet of information to present, but Kelly acknowledged it was not yet ready.

They have also been involved in researching companies that have developed programs that might be suitable. She said they were working with a company that had a contract with the island school, and noted their offer to the town would be to charge $1.00 a household and reduce the cost for the school. She added that in order to implement that program the group would need to access a data base of phone numbers for island householders.

With no source immediately coming to mind, committee members decided they would have to develop their own list. Kelly said they would go before the Town Council in March.

Other plans

With activities on the island slowing down in the winter, SAC members brainstormed about possible on-island programs, such as  shell jewelry-making, knife-sharpening or bread-making sessions. Pierce hoped there could be cribbage in the spring. Itemizing some potential off-island trips, she suggested the mansions, the Illustration Museum and Doris Duke historic homes—all in Newport.

DeMaggio, Martin and Susan Wright agreed to meet after the holidays to consider other possibilities.

Speaking of a program of safety awareness that has been offered by SAC in the past, Kelly suggested putting out a notice on the Block Island Bulletin Board highlighting the locations of defibrillators around town. Member Sandra Hopf suggested distributing a list to all the realtors, as well.

The group scheduled nominations for office and elections for its next meeting on Jan. 21 at 9:30 a.m.

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