On September 10, the Mattapoisett Council on Aging held a grand lawn party in celebration of the COA’s 50-year anniversary. The weather was a perfect combination of late-summer warmth and refreshing sea breezes, as visitors learned about the extensive programs and services available to seniors and their caregivers.
On hand to celebrate the occasion was former Town Administrator Mike Botelho, who spoke to the need for senior services, while current Town Administrator Mike Lorenco (latest of three consecutive Mike’s to serve as town administrator – Gagne being the second) began his comments pointing out that he wasn’t even born when the COA was chartered in 1972.
“I struggled to figure out exactly what I would say,” Lorenco began with a smile. “I thought about preparing a grandiose speech that highlighted some of the important moments over the last 50 years … I realized … such a speech would be hard for me because I am not even 50 years old!”
What Lorenco did point out is something he does thoroughly understand: numbers. For many cities and towns, the growing senior populations are a reality impacting revenue and service needs.
“The future of Mattapoisett is very much reliant on where our senior population steers the ship,” said Lorenco, who then laid out the following statistics. In 2000, Mattapoisett’s senior population stood at 22 percent of the whole; by 2019, that number jumped to 38 percent. Over that 19-year period, the median age of the community went from 42.5 years of age to 53.4, and of all households in the town, nearly 43 percent had at least one member over age 65.
Lorenco said a quarter of all households in Mattapoisett are single-person households, and of those, nearly half are occupied by seniors. “A huge chunk of the town’s tax base,” is from the senior sector, he pointed out.
The diversity of lifestyles and service needs is expanding, Lorenco stated, making it necessary for the administration to build effective programming and, possibly even more significant, turn to seniors as a “community resource.”
Lorenco beseeched Saturday’s audience to help look for ways to reshape the town’s physical assets, including participating in public meetings and hearings that may possibly impact the concept of school consolidation. He said the UMass Boston Collins Center study is one way seniors can help the town.
“Whether or not you agree with such a move is not important … I believe that it is of the utmost importance that this group, a group that represents nearly 40 percent of the town’s population, get involved in that study.” He said there would be online surveys and public meetings. “Stand up, speak up, and don’t be afraid to help steer the ship.”
Since 2011, Jackie Seney has been executive director of the Mattapoisett COA. Under her guidance and that of the COA Board of Directors, services and programs have expanded. Significantly in demand are movement classes that give seniors a variety of opportunities to exercise regardless of their fitness level. Walking, yoga, barre and Zumba are just a few of the classes that seniors may enjoy.
Navigating the rigorous rules and regulations around Social Security and Medicare can be mind-numbingly complicated. Healthcare insurance questions and issues can be assisted by the SHINE program, which stands for Serving the Health Information Needs of Elders.
One-on-one assistance is just a phone call away. The COA also holds information sessions and one-on-one assistance to seniors who need a guiding hand with Social Security. Although a separate agency, Public Health Nurse Emily Field works closely with the COA to assist in a variety of capacities including home visits.
Social isolation is an area of special importance, Seney stated. Making sure seniors are reached right where they are in their homes can make all the difference in a person’s day. Seniors may also enter outreach programs such as the friendly visitor connection. Seniors wishing to receive a call to talk about issues on their mind or just to hear someone say, “How are you today?” can participate in this program by giving the COA a call.
From in-home-equipment needs from shower chairs and commodes to wheelchairs, canes, crutches and other forms of mobility appliances, if the COA does not have it, they can help you source one from another COA.
Community COA’s help one another. Seney explained that while the Mattapoisett COA might not have a specific program a senior might need, she can help identify another community that may and help that senior with transportation to out-of-town meetings. She said that at first widows had to travel out of town for support groups. Seney was able to bring that kind of compassionate programming to Mattapoisett.
Aiding seniors through social opportunities and other activities are the Friends of the Mattapoisett COA. This group is committed to providing support, especially if a senior is experiencing special needs not covered by other agencies or groups by helping the senior with finding a resolution. Three festive luncheons are held for the benefit of all seniors in the community, providing a free, fun social occasion. These are held during the Christmas holiday, springtime and early fall seasons. For more information, contact the COA.
In a follow-up, Seney said the coming two to five years will find the COA providing more programs for people facing memory problems and those facing housing insecurity. Visit Mattapoisett.net for the COA web page or call 508-758-4110.
Mattapoisett Council on Aging
By Marilou Newell