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Dexter and Milo look to become more age friendly

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Earlier in the year applications made by the towns of Dexter and Milo to join the AARP/World Health Organization Network of Age-Friendly Communities were approved. The designation will enable the communities to utilize AARP resources, at no charge, to make the community more age friendly through the organization’s policies and infrastructure improvements.

Kickoff meetings were held in Dexter and Milo on May 19 and 26 respectively at the town offices as each municipality will be working with the AARP to make both communities more age friendly, with improvements benefiting not just senior citizens but all residents.

“We are hoping this is the beginning of a long conversation and even more action to make Milo an even better place to live,” said Piscataquis Thriving in Place (TIP) Collaborative Project Director Meg Callaway during the second of the two kickoffs in Milo

Callaway explained the initiative, which is funded by the Maine Health Access Foundation with the $300,000 having a funding period from Nov. 1, 2014 to the end of October 2017 and is facilitated by the Charlotte White Center, seeks to improve coordination across the continuum of care for people in Piscataquis County with chronic conditions to enable them to stay in their homes through the integration and coordination of existing services and the creation of a sustainable resource and referral network. These residents, including senior citizens and those with disabilities, are at an increased risk for hospitalization or other forms of institutional care.

She said by having towns work with TIP — Dover-Foxcroft has already received age-friendly status and Greenville is applying to become an AARP/World Health Organization Network of Age-Friendly Community as well — a structure can be put in place “that lets you tell us about the great things you have and what things you could still use.”

“I think we can gain so much by tapping into you folks, which is such a great resource,” Milo Town Manager/Police Chief Damien Pickel said. He said the community has a high percentage of older residents as well as a number of children, and one possibility could be to find ways for senior citizens to volunteer in youth-oriented programs.

Callaway said that many age-friendly improvements can benefit not only senior citizens but all residents. She said expanded walking paths can serve wheelchairs and strollers alike.

“You are making communities that people can stay in for a lifetime,” she said. “That’s what we hope to be, a place to go for good ideas and turning them into action.”

“There are currently 38 communities that have made this commitment, using an age-friendly lens to make community improvements,” said AARP Maine Age-Friendly Consultant Patricia Oh. “When a community is really working well it’s a good place for all ages.”

“These initiatives focus on low-cost and no-cost ideas,” Oh said.

Callaway said the next step is to take advantage of the University of Maine Center on Aging and an ad hoc committee of eight to 10 members from both Dexter and Milo will work with Center Project Manager David Wihry on developing survey for residents. She said the questionnaires will “help assess what they already have and what can help build more effective communities.”

“What are the needs in the community?,” Wihry said about the main question for the surveys. “What is working well, what are the strengths and resources that make it a great place to age, and the other half is what could be improved?”

“I think it would take about five to six months and then I would meet with the folks about on a monthly basis,” he said. Wihry said a future, second age-friendly committee would be tasked with looking and implementing the AARP’s eight domains of livability — domain outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information and community and health services — based on all the feedback from the community.

Observer photos/Stuart Hedstrom
AGE-FRIENDLY COMMUNITIES — Residents of Dexter, left, and Milo attended respective May 19 and 26 kickoff meetings for new membership in the AARP/World Health Organization Network of Age-Friendly Communities. The designation will enable the pair of communities to utilize AARP resources to make each municipality more age friendly through the organization’s policies and infrastructure improvements, with benefits being not just for senior citizens but for all residents.

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