By Lorraine Glowczak
Over 50 towns in Maine are members of AARP’s Network of Age-Friendly Communities including Raymond. Windham will soon be added to the list through the efforts of the Human Services Advisory Committee (HSAC).
At the December 11 Windham Town Council meeting, Deb McAfee and Marge Govoni, two members of HSAC, presented to the Council the importance and purpose of an age-friendly community. But more importantly, McAfee and Govoni were there to ask the town leaders for support to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities and the World Health Organization Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities in order to conduct a town wide assessment. The survey will determine the needs of Windham.
Sheila Bourque, a leader in Raymond’s successful efforts, was available to offer additional information and answer questions from Council members. Raymond officially became a part of the age-friendly network in November 2017.
Per AARP, “age-friendly networks are not retirement villages, gated developments, nursing homes or assisted living facilities.” Instead they are livable communities that help promote the areas’ health and economic growth. An age-friendly community also provides opportunity for individuals to age in place, making sure services are available so one can remain in their home, independently, as long as possible. And just as imperative, to provide a rich intergenerational experience for all residents.
It is important to note that membership in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities does not mean AARP endorses any particular municipality as a place to live. What membership means is that the community's elected leadership has made the commitment to actively work toward making their town a great place for people of all ages.
“Forty percent of Windham’s residents are age 50 and over,” Govoni said. “We have received feedback that many individuals in this age bracket are feeling misplaced and Windham is not a home for them. It is our goal to change that.”
McAfee agreed, adding, “It is very hard to find services available because there is not one central location in order to find the help that someone might need.” McAfee also stated that there are a lot of services out there through the parks and recreational department, area churches and library but there is not one hub that collects all that information and makes it readily available. Many services that are needed include transportation, shopping, food delivery and handyman/maintenance services, to name just a few.
Members of the town council unanimously voted to support and begin the process of becoming part of an age-friendly network. So, what comes next?
“We will first apply for the AARP mini-grant that will pay for the survey and then we will establish an open community forum to invite residents to determine what questions should be placed on that survey,” McAfee explained.
From that point, the survey will be mailed out and made available. After the results have been recorded, an age-friendly taskforce will be created. “It is our hope that a member of the town council will be on that taskforce,” McAfee said. “That taskforce will help develop the umbrella from which all services will be consolidated.”
As far as the other 60 percent of Windham residents who are less than 50 years old, Govoni offers this reminder, “We all end up in this age bracket eventually, so it is wise to be involved in this effort as much as possible. It is your future you are preparing for.”