Friday, September 22, 2006
New team takes over at the Carlisle Council on Aging
If you walk into Town Hall these days and head into the Council on Aging (COA) office, you will meet the new Director Kathy Mull and Outreach Coordinator Angela Smith.
Mull has lived in Ayer for the past seven years. Previously, she lived in Littleton for 25 years. She has served as director of the COA in Stow, as well as the Outreach Coordinator there in the late '90s. Earlier she was coordinator of the Adult Day Program in Westford, and over the past two years she was a medical assistant at Concord Hillside Medical Park.
Besides her professional experience, Mull has had lots of experience in caring for family members, "caring in all situations," she adds, "at home, in elderly housing, assisted living and nursing homes." Mull and her husband, Daniel, have two grown daughters and Mull's father is living nearby.
Mull first read about the opening for the Carlisle job in "Action Unlimited." She had been looking for a part-time job in a COA position and this 19.5-hour position with a flexible schedule was what she had been hoping for.
Mull's weekly schedule has her in Carlisle usually on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but she is quick to add that on a need-basis it is possible for her to come in on a Wednesday or a Friday. "I have a laptop and can work at home, but both Angela and I check voice-mail and e-mail several times a day," she explains. "We coordinate things between the two of us so there is coverage every day."
Working in a smaller town
Mull finds her job in Carlisle a little different from those she has had before. "It's a smaller town with 890 seniors. The other towns I have worked in have been twice that size and this job is unique because it is part-time," she tells me. In the past she has shared the job or been a full-time coordinator. She is impressed with the large and active COA Board and the active Friends of the COA, both of which she finds "very supportive."
She sees her job as supervising and coordinating the activities and programs of the COA. "It is a misconception that most of the COA programs are social activities," Mull is quick to point out. "That is a part of it, but the large part is outreach — identifying those elders in need of services and programs."
Previously Smith spent 28 years as a senior customer service manager for Digital Equipment Corporation, Compaq and then Hewlett-Packard. More recently, she went to school nights, receiving a master's degree and certificate in Health Care Management. Over the years she has coordinated health care for her mother in Dorchester and mother- and father-in-law in Franklin. Smith lives on Martin Street with her husband Dana and son Brendon, a recent graduate of Minuteman Regional High School.
"Seniors in Carlisle are ages 60 years or older," explains Smith. In some towns the age of seniors can begin at 50 or 55. Here in Carlisle seniors include residents as well as their parents who have come to live in town. As of September 13, Carlisle had a population of 5,511, 890 (16%) of whom were seniors.
"My first obligation is outreach to people who need help, people who live alone and can't get out. I try to visit people in their own homes," says Smith. One project that Smith oversees is a senior citizen real estate tax voucher program, which has 15 slots for seniors who may work in town departments and earn $6.75 per hour up to a total of $500 credit toward their tax bill. Smith reports she has people working at the Gleason Public Library, at the Town Hall, at the Carlisle School in the cafeteria and library, for the fire department, and for the police department overseeing a school crossing. At this time there are still a few slots available. Other programs Smith oversees are help with food stamps, fuel assistance, and the RUOK program coordinated with the Carlisle Police, which entails a phone call at 8 a.m. with Smith's voice asking "Are you O.K.?" If the call is not answered within a certain period of time, the police make a "well-being check."
Much of Smith's time is spent in planning and taking part in programs for the COA. She mentions a recent COA trip to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem for the "Painting Summer in New England" exhibit. "The Senior Connection" newsletter that is sent to seniors each month is filled with dates of activities and special events that are taking place in the weeks and months ahead. The newsletter is also posted in the Gleason Public Library, the post office and on the web at www.federali.com/carlisle-coa.
Both Mull and Smith want seniors to know about the services offered at home — Meals on Wheels, transportation, home health aides, shopping, money management and the possible referral of people to Minuteman Senior Services of Burlington, the area service provider.
"We want to identify more seniors living alone at home," says Mull. "Our goal is always to keep a senior living at home. If they can avail themselves of our services when they need them, this enables them to stay in their homes and keep their independence," she adds. "People are living longer these days and many family members are living out of state or far away."
More COA volunteers needed
"One of my priorities for the year is to acquire more volunteers, volunteers of any age," states Smith. "We need volunteers to deliver Meals on Wheels; friendly drivers to take people to appointments at Emerson Hospital or Lahey Clinic; someone to help with chores at home such as yard work or home repair; visitors and card senders." Smith would like to assemble a Rolodex of volunteers, listing their skills and interests. She recalled a time when a senior needed a pair of slacks hemmed. She was able to call on a volunteer who had listed sewing as one of her skills.
"Carlisle does not have a senior center like many other towns, but Carlisle is very generous to its seniors," reports Mull. "Town departments and boards, the churches and schools, the library, and Town Hall are supportive," reports Mull. "The Sleeper Room on Church Street is small, but churches and the Town Hall have been available for larger programs," she adds.
As the COA team heads into a new year, both Mull and Smith are hopeful that more hours can be added to their jobs. At present they believe there is not enough time to get the work done.
For information on COA activities see "Senior Connection," press releases in the Mosquito and its web site, www.federali.com/carlisle-coa.
© 2006 The Carlisle Mosquito