The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 16, 2005

Features

New COA Director brings human needs perspective

New COA director Jane Williams (photo by Rik Pierce)

As of July first, Carlisle has a new Council on Aging Director: Jane Williams. Williams, who has lived in Carlisle with her husband Bert for the past six-and-a-half years, comes to the COA directorship after years of working at Westford Academy (Westford's public high school) as a psychologist and coordinator of special education programs. Changing her focus from children to seniors is not a huge leap for Williams; her philosophy is one that transcends all age groups. "I'm seeing that basic human needs are the same whether you're three or a hundred-and-three," she says. "People want to have dignity, a sense of well-being, a sense of trust, and control over their lives. Kids don't have that control, and as seniors lose some of their facilities, it's important to enhance their dignity and help them feel that they do have choices."
Williams lived with her husband for over 25 years in Marblehead, where Bert still runs a sailing school. It was during her formative years in Newton however, that Williams first found herself feeling drawn to seniors. "When I was growing up, my mother was always involved in COA, so it was just part of my upbringing," she says. While accompanying her mother on visits to nursing homes and senior housing complexes, she developed an interest in gerontology. When the COA director position opened, "I thought it would be a nice match between my professional interests and my desire to get more involved in the community," she says.

Among the duties Williams is responsible for as COA Director are to develop and supervise social, recreational and educational services and programs for the senior citizens of Carlisle. In addition, she creates and distributes a monthly newsletter, prepares the annual grant to procure state funding, coordinates transportation services and oversees the department's volunteer program.

"Volunteerism in this community is wonderful," says Williams, although one of her goals for the future of the COA is to expand the volunteer program even further. Because her position is part-time (15 hours a week), she points out that volunteers are critical to make sure the needs of seniors are being satisfied.

Also in the future for the Carlisle COA is a new van, which should be available in October. "We have a generous benefactor and look forward to enhancing our transportation program," says Williams. Transportation, either using the COA van or "friendly drivers" as Williams refers to them, are critical in Carlisle, where there are few services and no public transit. "Transportation [for seniors] is important in our town, to keep people in their own homes longer," she says.

Among Williams' goals is to collect an accurate assessment of the needs of the 840 people over age 60 who live in Carlisle. "We want to know who our population is, and what resources are available to make sure there's a match there," she says. "The focus remains on the frail, homebound and isolated."

Another goal, Williams says, is to look into a senior/community center that would offer more room for programs for all Carlisle residents than the current Sleeper Room at Carlisle Village Court. Because it would require funding, Williams recognizes that "it's not going to happen tomorrow."

If Williams could throw out any particular plea to the public on behalf of the COA, it would be to encourage volunteers to offer their time to Carlisle's seniors, visiting, driving, teaching computer skills, or presenting one-time programs. "There are a variety of functions, so one could even volunteer once a year. It doesn't have to be a long-term commitment," she says. (Anyone interested in volunteering for the Carlisle COA can call Williams at 978-371-2895.)

In the two months since Williams began at COA director, she says she has most enjoyed meeting more Carlisle residents through the organization. "I've met some nice, talented and supportive people. Not just the seniors and board members, but people at town hall and in the community."


2005 The Carlisle Mosquito