The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 2, 2008

COA reviews ten-town research, plans local survey

At the Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting on April 22, Jim Elgin and Bert Williams of the Council on Aging (COA) reviewed their board’s progress in planning for an aging Carlisle. They presented the results of research into services for seniors offered in ten Massachusetts towns of similar size, and also noted an opinion survey of Carlisle residents will be conducted in the fall or winter. The survey will be designed with help from a consultant and with some input from the Livable Carlisle Community (LCC) group.

The COA, whose mission is to “improve the quality of life for seniors in Carlisle” has formed a long-term planning committee to “better support our mission in the future.” The first step, a survey of ten similar-sized towns, has been completed. Those towns included Boxborough, Boxford, Dover, Harvard, Groton, Lincoln, Littleton, Manchester, Sherborn and Wenham. Each town was visited, and statistics were gathered on revenues, spending and services. Of particular interest was whether a senior center is available.

Elgin noted that most towns have the same challenges as Carlisle: a growing senior population and limited money. Most have similar funding and staffing to Carlisle’s, and seven of the ten have a “Friends of the COA.” He noted several have developed creative ways for funding programs, including thrift stores.

Williams said that of the ten towns, only two had less space for senior activities than Carlisle. Seven have dedicated space, usually in a converted school or town building. Programs offered are similar, with “all sorts of exercise and a big emphasis on physical activity.” Outreach services are similar to Carlisle’s.

Transportation is “really big” for medical appointments, shopping, and social reasons. Six towns are members of Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) that provide public transport by bus or van. Others rely on taxis: Lincoln, Sherborn, and Dover are towns were it was found to be more cost-effective to subsidize taxi service than to provide vans.

Although some surveyed towns have a senior population as high as 25% of the total, “most towns don’t seem to have gone out and done advanced planning,” said Elgin. Senior housing is an area of concern, with most towns reporting local options are inadequate. However, according to Williams, most “aren’t doing an awful lot” and with the Benfield RFP for senior housing about to be issued, this is one area Carlisle may be ahead of the game.

Selectman Alan Carpenito thanked the group for the extensive volunteer time devoted to the research. “The report is very detailed and very informative.” It was noted that towns that participated will receive the report, and the state Executive Office of Elder Affairs has also requested it. It is available on-line at the Carlisle town web site.

The opinion survey is in the process of design. The plan is to include all households and to use a “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” response mechanism with comments. John Ballantine spoke for the LCC, which will have some input to the survey, and noted at the recent public meeting (See Mosquito 4/11) residents spoke of means to increase connectedness, including a gathering place and public transportation for various ages, not just seniors. In particular, “Teens are left out here.” ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito