Marion COA Needs More Friends

Marion’s Council on Aging has some friends, but they want more. The newly-formed Friends of the Marion Council on Aging plan to support the Council on Aging so it can provide even more services to the town’s seniors and other citizens.

“Our goal is to raise money for the COA,” said Priscilla Ditchfield, the treasurer of the organization. According to Ditchfield, the COA is town-funded and cannot fundraise or apply for grants from private foundations or corporations.

“We want to be an advocate for older people in town and expand the scope of the council,” Ditchfield said.

The group formed last fall and quickly gained momentum. A town-wide mailing explaining the purpose of the Friends will go out in May.

“We hope that everyone in town will become a friend,” said Chrissie Bascom, the secretary of the FMCOA. “You can become a friend for a $10 donation.”

According to Bascom, one-third of Marion’s population is over 60 years of age. In the 2012 census, 1,635 people, or roughly 30.5 percent of the population, is over 60.

“We are not sure, but looking down the road 10 to 20 years, it could approach the 50 percent mark.”

The diverse offerings for seniors in Marion include movies at the Marion Music Hall, classes at the Marion Recreation Department’s Atlantis Avenue facility and exercise sessions at the First Congregational Church of Marion.

“One of the issues is that there isn’t a place where all of these opportunities are offered and where people can move from room to room and socialize,” Bascom said. “Perhaps a community center in the future would be a goal.”

“We are impressed with the work of the COA,” Bascom added. According to the statistics provided by Director Susan Schwager, the Marion COA delivered 5,340 meals and provided 5,996 rides for shopping and medical appointments in 2012. Other services included a Health Fair, a monthly lecture series, a safe driving program and free tax preparation during tax season. The COA also manages the Senior Work-Off program, where seniors work as volunteers and reduce their real estate taxes.

To become a friend of the COA, you can volunteer or donate as little as the aforementioned $10. The organization is also looking for volunteers to join their membership, fundraising, communication, enrichment and long-range planning committees.

To volunteer, join or get more information, email A new website is under construction at

By Joan Hartnett-Barry

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