Friday, May 18, 2012

Why Newburyport Needs a Senior Center

In the City Council, I am one of 11 people who gets to vote on matters important to all citizens.  On June 5th, I'll be one of 13,000 voters who gets to vote on three questions which have important implications to our future.

I will be voting Yes-Yes-Yes for a new Bresnahan School, a rehabilitated Nock-Molin School, and Newburyport's first Senior Community Center.  More information at

We have good quality senior services provided in a very cost-effective manner by the City's Council on Aging Director Roseann Robillard, a couple of staff, and a lot of volunteers.  These services are a very small part of the City operating budget.  We are one of a handful of municipalities in Massachusetts that does not have a central location for these basic services.

There's a simple reason why it's a good idea to put these services in one spot: it's easier for the customers/seniors/elders to use.  And here's another good reason: it's more efficient for the limited number of staff to operate these programs when they are not begging/borrowing/renting scattered spaces.

Bill Plante in the Daily News does a great job of reminding us that the push for better services for elders has been a long struggle in Newburyport

He's right on:

I don't want to make a case for the supernatural here, but a week ago, I came across an old photograph of my late mother, Bertha M. Plante, and that of the mother of Newburyport's late Mayor Albert H. Zabriskie, together with the Rev. Bertrand H. Steeves, minister emeritus of the First Religious Society, who is still very much with us. It was taken because they were leaders in the pioneer efforts to let the voices of the elderly be heard. Senior citizens were so with the times that they were invited to appear on Boston television.

Generations of other local voices continued taking up their cry, and it was heard and responded to in a great many communities, most of which built senior centers. Newburyport hasn't, and this is another attempt, because the mean age of Americans is growing older every day.

Here's a recap of the services and where they are provided:

Services currently provided by the Council on Aging and what could be done in a suitable space:

                                    Current                        Future 

Nutrition           Meals on Wheels                                Cooking for One’ classes 
                                Congregate meals                             Eating with Diabetes program
                                Brown Bag program                          ‘Men’s Meeting’ Breakfast program

Fitness               Exercise to Music                               Yoga
                                Line Dance                                          Tai Chi / Reiki
                                                                                               Ball Room /Tap Dance / Square Dance
                                                                                               Weight training
                                                                                               Stationary equipment – bikes/treadmills

Health                 Podiatry                                                                
                                Blood Pressure checks                   Chronic Disease Self-Management Program
                                Hearing loss evaluations                Chair Massage
                                Info Seminars                                     Walking club
                                Durable Equipment loan

Support          Low Vision                                        Weight Management
                                Grief/Bereavement                          Panic/Anxiety/Depression support
                                                                                            AA –Sober after Sixty / Gamblers Anon
                                                                                            Care Giver support / Alzheimer support
                                                                                            Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Outreach          Telephone Reassurance               Friendly Visiting Program

Creative         Knitting for Newborns                     Teddy Bear Workshop
                                Watercolor Painting Class             Art exhibits
                                                                                             Memoirs workshop
                                                                                             Quilting - Bunka
                                                                                             Woodcarving / Model Ship building

Social                 Bridge                                                 Poker/Whist/Cribbage/Scrabble                      
                                Retired Readers                              Golden Age meetings
                                Bingo                                                  Red Hat meetings
                                Day Trips                                           Birthday parties – Holiday parties
                                Mah Jongg                                        Sports Fan Club
Community     TRIAD    (safety programs)            Ask A Cop
                                COA Board meetings                    State Rep/Senator office hours
                                Property Tax Work program          'News & Views’ meetings
                                Snow Shoveling program             FRIENDS of COA
                                                                                           Veterans services
                                                                                           Volunteer/Job Bank

Education        Health Insurance Counseling                          
                                Monthly Newsletter                         Investments Club
                                Tax Filing Assistance                     Computer classes
                                Housing Options                            Retirement planning
                                Information & Referral

Transport         NEET – out of town transport
                                Evening Meal Van service
                                Medical transport
                                Food shopping

The mission of the COA is matching the Needs of Elders with the Resources in the Community

The focus of a senior center is providing services/programs that fulfill significant needs in the lives of the community’s elders. The number, types and frequency of programs is dependent upon the availability of space, staff and funding.

Adult transition to a new phase of life (retirement) can be helped by the availability of services and programs designed to anticipate the challenges they may face. 
  • Health/Fitness,
  •  Information/Education,
  • Outreach/Support,
  • Social/Recreation.

Many COA programs are social/recreational/entertaining by design because the need for new opportunities for socialization increases as family and other long-held supports decrease.

Two common tracts of aging: (Bad/Good)
 Isolation, Loneliness, Depression, Fatigue, No appetite, Illness,
Complications, Drain on community services
Socialization, Stimulation, Affirmation, Self Esteem, Self-care,
Community Involvement, Ability to give back to community through volunteerism

The availability of a Senior/Community Center is an enhancement to a Healthy Community where adults have more opportunities to age well, be involved in and give back to the community

COA Service/Program Locations
  • Salvation Army building
  • People’s United Methodist church
  •  Elks Hall
  •  Newburyport Public Library
  • Emma Andrews Library
  • City Hall
  • Anna Jaques Hospital
  • Atria Merrimack Place
  •  Salisbury Hilton Center
  • Sullivan Building
  • Heritage House
  • James Steam Mill


2010 census info
Total Nbpt Residents = 17,416      Age 60+ = 4,261 (24%)
Babyboomers: born between 1946 – 1964 comprise 35% of the population (6,113 residents)
Demographic projections predict increase in aging until the year 2050.

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