WAYNE — In the 17 years Elaine Briggs has lived at the northern end of Wilson Pond, she’s made the little property her own.

She maintains a flower garden. She makes soap in the basement of her boxy, one-story home with ingredients such as lavender and spearmint. She isn’t a vinyl snob, but maintains a record player and a collection of old country albums. Chickadees compete with squirrels at the feeder on her front lawn, and she sometimes can coax the small birds to peck seeds from the palm of her hand. She can put her kayak in the stream behind her house and paddle to the pond. She likes her neighbors, who have helped move snow from the front of her driveway after heavy storms.

Now 63, she hopes to stay there as long as possible, and also help fellow Wayne residents stay in their homes as they get older.

A group of citizens has been seeking the views of people like Briggs. They want to make Wayne a community where residents can age in place more easily, and they’ve been surveying town residents to get a better idea of the needs of the elderly, as well as what skills and services the young and old alike have to offer.

In doing so, they’re making Wayne just the latest Maine town to launch an aging-in-place initiative. A couple dozen Maine communities have been working with AARP – formerly the American Association of Retired Persons – to implement a set of age-friendly practices.

Briggs, for example, suggests older residents could use assistance with snow clearing, housecleaning, and meal preparation. And if there comes a time she can’t live independently, she said, she hopes there might be a communal living environment somewhere in Wayne she could move into.

According to Patricia Oh, a consultant with AARP Maine, other central Maine communities that are pursuing aging-in-place actions include Augusta, Richmond and Readfield.

In Augusta, for example, organizers have used a grant from AARP to create an age-friendly sticker that can be posted at businesses that are trying to become accessible to the elderly. In Readfield, there’s a project underway to help elderly residents get deliveries of sand when their driveways are icy.

Richmond, along with Bowdoin and Bowdoinham, benefits from a group of volunteer workers who help seniors make changes on their homes. That program was launched after an elderly woman paid thousands of dollars to have a ramp built on her home, but the work was never completed by the contractors, Oh said.

In Wayne, organizers have received a roughly $3,000 grant to launch the aging-in-place program. They’ve already conducted one survey to determine the needs of the local elderly, and they’re conducting a second survey – available on the town website, waynemaine.org; at the Town Office; and at Cary Memorial Library – to see what services area residents can offer either as volunteers or for a fee.

So far, at least 25 people have taken the survey, and the leader of the effort, Pam Chenea, has been calling every number in the local phone book to seek feedback.

“They’re volunteering for all sorts of things,” said another organizer, Stan Davis. “Even people for whom, say, repairs around the house would be a business, one particular guy has volunteered to do that stuff for free, for people who need, say, grab bars or light fixtures fixed. If we’re lucky, we’ll have a team of people who will do those kinds of things.”

Other services that they hope volunteers will be able to offer are phone check-ins, household chores, personal care and snow removal.

Part of their motivation is to support the elderly and make it easier for them to continue living in a rural part of the state, Davis said. Another goal is to give the elderly residents opportunities to participate, whether by calling their peers or tutoring local children.

Yet another goal is to get children and younger adults more comfortable with the elderly, and to maybe even inspire them to stay in Wayne as they grow into adulthood. It’s possible that younger residents could begin helping the elderly and find demand for a new type of business, Davis said. They’re hoping everyone will consider taking the second survey, but are particularly interested in recruiting teenagers.

“We’re all getting older,” Chenea said. “One of the things that I feel strongly about is the need to help the young people in town make connections that wouldn’t otherwise happen, to let them know what happens as you age.”

For Briggs, who grew up in and around Livermore Falls and has worked for the Maine Department of Education for more than a decade, finding that property on Mount Pisgah Road wasn’t easy. “I spent years and years and years looking for a home, once I decided on Wayne,” she said. “I discovered I love being near water.”

Charles Eichacker can be contacted at 621-5642 or at:

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