Yarmouth is joining the growing list of communities that are studying how to help residents live comfortably in their homes as they grow into old age.

With the support of a modest federal grant and supplemental funding from the town, work is underway to survey the Yarmouth community and its aging population to develop a plan for how residents can remain in place as they age.

With a grant of $6,000 from the Cumberland County Community Development Block Grant and an additional $3,900 from the town, Leigh Kirchner will lead the Yarmouth Aging at Home Project, a yearlong effort to survey the needs of older residents, identify opportunities for improved services and develop a sense of priorities for the town to pursue in the future.

“We have (services) in Yarmouth that are assisting seniors already, but it’s never been a coherent plan where everyone knows what everyone else is doing,” said Kirchner, a board member of the Yarmouth Cares About Neighbors group. “We know we cannot solve it all, but we’re trying to get a cohesive effort so everyone in town knows what’s going on and can contribute to the process.”

Kirchner expects the project to take about a year, and will require the help of the public along the way.

Across the state, government groups, nonprofits and advocates for seniors are planning for the increasing number of aging Mainers. Presently, nearly one in five Mainers is age 65 or older. Overall, Maine has the highest median age, at 43.5 years, of any state. A statewide effort, through the Maine Council on Aging, is underway to help communities plan for their elderly population’s needs and annual conferences are held to help communities learn what elder-care specialists are doing elsewhere. A similar effort is underway nearby in Cumberland, where an aging committee has been working since 2014.

In Yarmouth, Kirchner said she plans to convene focus groups, distribute community-wide surveys and hold meetings to listen to residents’ concerns and thoughts on how to better knit together a network of services.

“What we know to be true is that there is duplication of effort at times, or at worse, a senior needs some assistance and doesn’t know where to turn, doesn’t know who to call,” she said.

Already some volunteer groups, such as Yarmouth Cares About Neighbors, are helping people in town find services and assistance. The group already helps operate the town’s food pantry, and offers rides for the elderly.

“It’s very much an exploratory, planning process,” Town Manager Nat Tupper said of the project. “We don’t have an outcome in mind. We want to come up with an organizational and resource plan to make the community a better place for aging.”

Work on the project will begin in the coming weeks, and Kirchner said she will soon be looking for help from the public. Volunteers may contact her at: [email protected]

 


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