Jess Maurer, Maine Council on Aging, presents at Comprehensive Plan Update Meeting

|Anne Maurice|
On November 13, Scott Hastings, Town Planner, began the CPUC monthly meeting by welcoming Jess Maurer, Executive Director of the Maine Council on Aging (MCOA).  Jess was invited to address the Committee about the ongoing research and actions regarding healthy aging in Maine. Committee members were very engaged and had a lively conversation after the presentation.

Jess referred to the report she provided which was written by the ‘Maine Council on Aging Task Force on Healthy Aging in Communities (Phase 1, 10/16/2019).  The report was the work of a multi-stakeholder task force of municipal officials and others with support from the Maine Municipal Association.  Maurer focused her remarks on what municipalities should be paying attention to and what to do at the local level.  A copy of the report can be found at the end of this article.

She started out with a lot of statistics.  There are 25,000 Mainers turning 65 every year.  In 2017, New Gloucester had 11.9% of its population over 65, up from 8.6% in 2010.  Through extensive survey work around the state, the MCOA knows that older residents want to stay in their own homes and community. However, most communities don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate their needs.  It is usually a personal crisis that forces someone to move.  Many communities do not have affordable units or their house is no longer safe or family or friends are not available to help out.  Unfortunately, many elderly residents move out of state in their later years. 

Jess had suggestions to help New Gloucester plan for its aging population.

  1.  Look into home repair to make homes safe and comfortable.  Simple modifications like grab bars, handrails, and lighting can help prevent falls and reduce the number of EMS calls in a community.  Several communities have volunteers who work with community block grants to get small projects completed.
  2. Look at zoning rules regarding accessory dwelling units and development with smaller homes universally designed for aging in place.
  3. Look into transportation coordination by leveraging neighbors.  Public/private partnerships can be one solution.  72% of older Mainers do not have access to public transportation. 
  4. Look at public safety more broadly by getting ahead of someone getting hurt.  Some communities are providing wellness programming and public health services.  Consider lighting and reflective paint on the roads. 
  5. Look at helping with the chores of life – trash pickup, snow removal, lawn mowing.

Jess stressed that it is not a municipality’s job to do everything, but it must be a good source of information for its residents and it can be a coordinator for volunteer committees that might include healthy living practices, home repairs, and transportation.  Jess strongly recommended partnering with nearby towns and reviewing what other municipalities are doing.  The first step must be a community assessment to determine the needs of our over 65 population.

The CPUC agreed that the Comprehensive Plan will have a chapter on age friendly communities that will look at an “intergenerational approach for our future” (Committee member Rebecca Klotzle).  Scott will draft the chapter with specific goals and the Committee will review and edit at a future meeting. 

The next meeting is scheduled for December 12th with a tentative agenda that includes the Historic and Archeological Resources sections.

For more information and to sign up for ongoing email updates on the comprehensive plan work contact the Town Planner, Scott Hastings at shastings@newgloucester.com or (207)926-4126 ext 4.

Video of the November 13th meeting. Materials and videos for this and other meetings can be found on the NG website: www.newgloucester.com.

For the report that Jess Maurer shared, click here.

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