The Block Island Times
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Senior Advisory: Honing in on the needs of island seniors

By Gloria S. Redlich | Mar 02, 2014

Continuing to refine their goals and determine how best to serve its constituency on island, members of the Senior Advisory Committee (SAC) picked up the threads of earlier discussions at its Feb. 18 meeting.

Most members knew of a number of island seniors needing assistance of one kind or another, but who were reticent about conveying their needs. SAC member Dottie Graham said, “There are at least 15 people I know of” who could benefit from some assistance. The group brainstormed ways to reach out to people without being intrusive.

Member Linda Spak felt there had been a few unsuccessful attempts to call the attention of the Block Island Health Services to this situation. “There is a role for the medical center to play — especially in the area of communication,” she said. She mentioned that many people were often not aware of what was available within the community both at the medical center and from SAC.

She cited weekly blood pressure readings at the medical center as an example of what some in the community may be unaware of. Spak hoped in the future the medical center might offer programs like skin cancer clinics and weight loss sessions.
Spak thought there was a need to make patients/island residents aware of what the center offered and also that SAC was available to augment medical care. It was important to assist people in many different ways, she noted — providing transportation to and from the center and other destinations, providing meals and assistance at home and helping people get out into the community.

To communicate these concerns and discuss ways the two groups might collaborate, the committee planned to send two members — Spak and Suzie Wright — to attend the next meeting of the BIHS board.

Co-Chair Gail Pierce said she’d received correspondence from the Block Island Haiti Team, which had offered “free labor to people in financial need” for small projects such as creating “handicapped bathroom accessibility, [laying] carpeting for one or two rooms, [trimming] hedges, [cleaning] out garages or basements, bicycle repair” and the like. Pierce said she would contact Socha Cohen to learn more.

Materials on an emergency notification program had been gathered by a subcommittee led by Co-Chair Sandra Kelly, Pierce said, and a letter was ready to send to the Town Council. Reached after the meeting, Pierce said the letter had been submitted in an attempt to get a place on the Town Council agenda for March to discuss the matter.

Search still on for Senior Coordinator
With the Senior Coordinator post still unfilled, Pierce and the group discussed ways to alter the job description, one of which was to reduce it to a 10-hour a week position. Pierce suggested that it be focused more on advocacy issues than on social ones, though still include some of these — with the committee also picking up many of the latter. She indicated the position was still being advertised.

Pierce also noted that at a past meeting Bill Wilson (a former member of SAC) had suggested the town “really needed a social worker for senior concerns.” With the growth of the senior population on island as around the country, other municipalities have chosen to fill such a post. Committee members agreed that there were enough issues related to the well-being of elders within the community to warrant such a position here. However, until the Town Council approved it, as Spak pointed out, the responsibility for island seniors remained with SAC and a coordinator.

More on U3A

Invited back to follow-up on her previous introduction to a program known as University of the Third Age (U3A), Elspeth Crawford elaborated for the committee. She pointed out that U3A was an international movement with many groups around the world including in the United Kingdom, other parts of Europe, Australia, New Zealand and some other countries as well.

She explained that though U3A was originally meant for retirees, it had become available to those of any age “outside of school or college” wishing to join in. Crawford noted that U3A was not just another group but rather worked as an umbrella network, under which groups devoted to intellectual, cultural, creative, physical and leisure activities might be listed and others developed.

Essentially, U3A would incorporate those groups already in existence and offer assistance to those wishing to form new groups. Members of SAC were supportive of Crawford’s efforts to establish a U3A on the island, with Pierce and Kelly joining the steering committee.

Pierce reminded the group that Robin Lewis was offering chair aerobics on Tuesdays and Fridays from 10:30 to 11:00 a.m.

The next meeting is scheduled for April 15 at 9:30 a.m.

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