JESSICA MAURER is co-chair of the Harpswell Aging at Home committee, a citizen-led effort to address aging issues in town and help older residents live more safely and comfortably in their homes.

JESSICA MAURER is co-chair of the Harpswell Aging at Home committee, a citizen-led effort to address aging issues in town and help older residents live more safely and comfortably in their homes.

HARPSWELL

Taking its cue from communities all over the state, Harpswell will soon be launching an aging in place initiative for senior residents in the coming months.

Harpswell Aging at Home is a citizen led effort to address aging issues in town and help older residents live more safely and comfortably in their homes. The need is especially great for the island community as a median age of 56.9 makes Harpswell one of the oldest towns in Maine with more than 3,000 residents.

The nonprofit organization was created from conversations that took place among residents Jessica Maurer, Dave Brown and the Rev. John Carson of Elijah Kellogg Congregational Church, and eventually developed into a 17- member steering committee.

The group currently consists of local residents from all different parts of Harpswell — Cundy’s Harbor, Orr’s and Bailey islands, Harpswell Neck, Great Island — and ages 60 to 80.

Maurer, who is co-chair of the committee, is also the executive director of the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

“There were just a bunch of people who were intersecting in their thinking,” she said on Monday. “So next thing you know, before we’re doing anything else, we were talking with the town about these things and they were very interested … in being (partners) with us.”

The town had formally partnered with the organization in August, according to Maurer.

“The selectboard agreed, seeing that it was a great cause and undertaking that would help us identify and serve the needs of the aging here in Harpswell,” said Selectman Rick Daniel.

Both Daniel and House Rep. Joyce McCreight, D-Harpswell, serve as ex-officio members of the committee.

The organization recently completed a community assessment last month, which highlighted the specific needs of the senior community in Harpswell. Issues that came up included having access to information on elder care services and the need for help with home repairs, simple chores and transportation.

“Entering into the planning phase, we will be creating an action plan and a set of goals and a plan to implement them and we’re going to have to start small,” Maurer said.

She noted the committee would also be meeting with town staff, fire and rescue and law enforcement to discuss the assessment and specifically, “where are the natural intersections already, and … how can we help get information to them and identify people who may need assistance.”

Town Administrator Kristi Eiane commended the organization’s efforts.

“We have been impressed with how long the organization has structured itself and engaged the community, and has this momentum to move forward on these issues,” she said on Monday.

“This isn’t a government-led initiative, it’s citizen-led and I really applaud them on doing that and taking that approach,” she added. “It’s a very broad-based effort … and it’s an excellent way to approach the issue.”

Maurer said the committee hopes to implement some of their plans by late spring.

“The plan is to go and create a clear mission and vision with goals that are driven from the assessment, and then action steps that would address the areas we’ve identified,” she said.

This also includes making use of programs and resources that are already available to the community.

“The goal is to increase awareness of those services within greater Harpswell to recruit volunteers to the programs that already exist. So make stronger what already exists, get people using those services more and get more information out about those services,” she said. “And then when we find holes in services that aren’t available, then we’re going to try to figure out how to plug those holes.”

While communities like Bowdoinham and Lewiston have already adopted similar programs, Harpswell won’t be too far behind, especially with help from the community.

“It’s time for us to re-imagine how we live together and how we develop communities,” Maurer said. “There’s no question about that and the reason I know that is because every time you engage a conversation with older people about it, they will lead you to where things need to go. They want to be the catalyst and are engaged in finding solutions. It’s that old slogan: nothing about me without me. And that’s really true in this.”

The committee

• THE NONPROFIT organization was created from conversations that took place among residents Jessica Maurer, Dave Brown and the Rev. John Carson of Elijah Kellogg Congregational Church, and eventually developed into a 17-member steering committee.

The group currently consists of local residents from all different parts of Harpswell — Cundy’s Harbor, Orr’s and Bailey islands, Harpswell Neck, Great Island — and ages 60 to 80.


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