Opinion

Senior Matters — Piscataquis aging-in-community projects transition

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The Piscataquis Thriving in Place Collaborative (TiP) came to life through generous funding from the Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF). TiP is an aging-in-place resource and referral network coordinated by the Charlotte White Center (CWC) that has grown to over 60 partners over the last four years.

In the first year, CWC and the University of Maine Center on Aging guided a group of volunteers and service providers through an assessment of what older and medically vulnerable adults needed most in order to remain in their homes and communities. Transportation, home-based services, and caregiver support were identified as the greatest needs. TiP partners have met every other week for the past three years to address these needs by learning about local and statewide resources, building stronger working relationships between organizations, advocating for legislation that promotes aging in community, and connecting individuals to services and supports. In addition to supporting a director for the project from CWC, the MeHAF grant funded five other lead organizations: Pine Tree Hospice; Penquis; Maine Highlands Senior Center; Community Health and Counseling Services; University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies; and the University of Maine Center on Aging.

Over a year ago, TiP partners recognized a need to spread their learning and support to individual towns interested in developing local age-friendly networks. TiP Director Meg Callaway met with municipal leaders in Dover-Foxcroft, Milo, Dexter, Guilford and Greenville to introduce AARP’s Livable Communities initiative and encouraged them to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. TiP pledged to help launch age-friendly initiatives in towns that joined the Network, starting by convening a steering committee to work with the University of Maine Center on Aging to survey the needs of community residents. With funding and consultation from both TiP and AARP, the towns are now at various stages of developing their initiatives. The Maine Highlands Federal Credit Union is generously underwriting the survey costs.

The ultimate goal of this Age Friendly Piscataquis project is for the towns to establish standing committees that work with their municipal leaders to develop and implement age-friendly action plans. TiP has also partnered with AARP to host monthly Coffee Talks at The Mill Café in Dover-Foxcroft and Elaine’s Bakery in Milo.

From the start of the TiP project, TiP partners have planned to integrate their efforts with the Senior Commons at the Maine Highlands Senior Center (MHSC). Four years ago, MHSC was still renovating the historic Central Hall building in downtown Dover-Foxcroft. Today, the building is nearly finished and the doors will open in the new year. Over the past year, TiP partners and leaders of the MHSC have been developing plans to merge the projects. MHSC Program Coordinator Tara Smith, has been working closely with TiP partners and a steering committee to develop programming for the Senior Commons. The vision is for the Senior Commons is not only to support activities that occur at the Central Hall site, but to help organize and facilitate programs that take place in the surrounding communities. With this goal in mind, Smith is actively engaging with the age-friendly communities to learn about their towns’ resources and interests.

As the end of the MeHAF grant came into view last year, CWC sought alternative sources of funding to support the ongoing collaboration between TiP, MHSC, and the Age-Friendly Piscataquis projects. The Maine Community Foundation, United Way of Eastern Maine, AARP, the Bangor Savings Bank Foundation and the Maine Charity Foundation Fund have all awarded grants to support the work.

Callaway will be leaving her position at the beginning of the year to work for Penquis in Bangor. Catie Bennett, nurse educator at CWC, will be assuming leadership of the TiP, and Smith will take the lead with Age-Friendly Piscataquis. Plans to eventually consolidate operations of the TiP and the Senior Commons are still moving forward. If you are interested in participating in the monthly Coffee Talk events or becoming involved in TiP, Age-Friendly Piscataquis, or the Maine Highlands Senior Center, please call 343-3018.

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