Senior Coordinator hits the ground running
Kathleen Mitchell, who was recently appointed Senior Coordinator by the Senior Advisory Committee, received an enthusiastic reception as she sat down to her first meeting with the board on August 28. With the applause of the group still echoing, Mitchell proposed a full agenda of activities and services aimed at engaging the interests of the senior members of the island community.
“I think we have to have a very strong start; I picture people lining up at the doors!” she said, without skipping a beat.
The part-time position was created recently when the Town Council approved it and provided the funds from which the Advisory Committee could underwrite it with a stipend of $4,000.
Mitchell noted she’d already been in contact with many of the boards and commissions in order to determine how and where focus and interests may overlap. Going about town, Mitchell said she’d also been “polling people — asking them what activities they’d like to have and when.” She added that many had been spontaneously contacting her, which she found very encouraging.
Some people, she said, “will never do anything referred to as ‘senior’ or that there is a charge for; others won’t go out at night.” Some are willing to pay and will come “if food is involved.” They might be interested if an event were linked with a dinner activity, Mitchell said.
“No one wants to be called ‘senior citizen’ or ‘old,’” she said, and so she’s been trying to come up with alternative terminology. One she broached was “best of all groups,” which most committee members found amusing and definitely “in the right direction.”
The message is don’t stop playing
Mitchell quoted Ben Franklin: “You don’t stop playing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop playing.” Emphasizing that her focus was “all about socialization and stimulation,” she explained these were “the cornerstones to health and happiness.” She admitted she wanted to interject a “health twist,” because “people are interested in exercise” and in nutrition.
She distributed a two and a half page alphabetical list of possible topics of interest beginning with “Always art: . . . Art, art and more art.” Included in the 46-item list were field trips to the mainland, as well as to undiscovered parts of the island, and a variety of culinary adventures — notably “a campfire cordial, classic cooking, a culinary contest and cooking together.” To entice people to ease into exercise there were Biker’s Bonus, salsa and line dancing, and Wednesday Walks.
There were also ecological opportunities for “going green,” educational ones for “learning to live healthier” and intergenerational exchanges such as reading to youngsters and tutoring high school students. Listed also are moments for mentoring, meditation, movies and music.
Other possibilities include fine-tuning skills in Tai Chi, individual talent areas, and in tennis and expanding knowledge of geography through travel talks.
In developing a calendar of what she hoped would be eclectic events, programs and classes, Mitchell said she wanted to start at the end of September or the beginning of October. She is working with Sandra Kelly of the advisory group to get onto the Block Island Bulletin Board (BIBB), the committee’s internet communication network. Kelly noted that there were currently 185 members of BIBB and that to date it had processed 508 messages.
Those wishing to contact Mitchell directly may call her at 466-5419, or write in care of Senior Coordinator, Box 220, Block Island, RI 02807. Her email address is email@example.com.
The committee edited the draft of a letter to the Town Council in which the board is recommending that the council “amend the current ordinance related to property tax relief for residents 65 and older, by increasing household income eligibility to $40,000” from its current level at $30,000. The letter is the result of a unanimous vote by the advisory board. Once the draft was corrected, the group agreed to deliver it to the Town Council.
Chair Gail Pierce thought the focus should be changed for the Friday Soup group in order to draw more people. Kelly suggested that there should be “something themed” about the luncheons, while others suggested “soup and sandwich,” which was immediately rejected.
Janet Merritt said there were already bridge and computer groups, as well as a Friday afternoon bagged lunch group running on island. The group discussed ways to draw men into the activities and suggested poker and get-togethers for repairing and sharpening tools as possibilities. Merritt also proposed an open house announcing the new season of activities as a way of introducing them to the community. Mitchell said she hoped to build on what already existed.
The group briefly discussed the Neptune pool, noting that insurance was in place for those wishing to use it. Merritt said, “I think this town needs a pool — for the children and the rest of us.” She voiced the hope that the group could work toward making that happen. Most agreed that the costs of building one would be prohibitive, but thought the discussion should be continued.
The next meeting was scheduled for Sept. 18 at 10:15 a.m.