Imagine, for a moment, during these bleak wintry Maine days that you’re in a warmer climate, Florida say. You’re living with 100,000 other senior citizens in the Villages, America’s largest gated community, located about 45 miles northwest of Orlando. The place abounds with golf courses and tennis courts, restaurants and bars. The population is overwhelmingly white with little concern for being politically correct or ethnically diverse. Trump support reigns here. The biggest decision is where to go for happy hour or an early bird dinner. It’s like a camp for adults. Sounds ideal, right? Or….maybe not.

Most senior citizens in Midcoast Maine wouldn’t feel at home living year-round in such an environment. They prefer the grittiness of Midcoast Maine, even in winter when they have to take small steps to avoid a fall. They enjoy being around younger people, whenever possible, as well as their own kind. They want to build bridges, not gates; they strive to lift everyone up, rather than keep anyone out.

Consider just a few examples of the immense contributions that older people make to life in midcoast Maine:

Drop by the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program in Brunswick during the lunch hour and see senior volunteers graciously serving meals, prepared by other volunteers, to people who depend on this program for their daily sustenance.

Check out the quality used books available at Twice Told Tales, staffed entirely by senior volunteers. The revenue generated by the bookstore benefits Curtis Memorial Library, an organization that relies heavily on seniors to give their time and expertise to a vast array of programs sponsored by the Library.

The Bowdoin Community Host Program taps the hospitality of local seniors to provide a home away from home, of sorts, for Bowdoin students. Students don’t live with their hosts, but they often develop deep intergenerational ties during the years on campus; the hosts benefit as much from these connections as do the students. Moreover, Bowdoin athletes look forward to home-cooked meals prepared by Brunswick citizens during the College’s winter break in January.

The innovative Harpswell Aging at Home program, an organization devoted to helping people thrive while aging at home, was started by seniors for seniors. Weekly lunches for seniors living alone on the islands have proven to be immensely popular.

The Maine Women’s Giving Tree, started and driven primarily by those no longer in the workplace, awarded $50,000 to 12 area nonprofits in 2019.

Local churches, heavily populated by seniors, take seriously their responsibility to serve the community, not just the members of their congregations. St. Pauls’ Episcopal Church, to cite but one example, raised $22,000 during it’s Holiday Fair this past December. That figure was matched, in turn, by an anonymous donor in the congregation. As has been the case in past years, the entire $44,000 is slated to be given to local nonprofits. Tedford Housing, Seeds of Independence, Mid Coast Hunger and the Gathering Place are just a few of the organizations that received substantial contributions from St. Paul’s in 2019.

The Maine State Music Theatre thrives, in part, because of the organization’s “Angels,” most of whom are senior citizens. Angels do everything from serve as ushers to providing transportation and additional services to actors and others associated with MSMT.

Many local seniors stepped up to assist the efforts of MidCoast New Mainers and other organizations in relocating and welcoming refugees living in Portland to the Brunswick area this past summer.

Space precludes citing all the other fine nonprofit organizations, such as Mid Coast Hospital, Oasis Free Clinics, the Gathering Place, College Guild, Brunswick Topsham Land Trust and People Plus, which are driven primarily by local seniors who give so freely of their time and so generously of their treasure. Ask any head of any nonprofit in the area how the organization would survive without the financial contributions of seniors. Moreover, ask any restaurant or coffee shop owner how they would do without a steady stream of senior customers. Finally, look at all the grey hairs in the crowds at Bowdoin concerts, lectures and sporting events.

The case is clear: The vitality of Midcoast Maine derives in large part from the boundless energy and can-do spirit of our senior citizens. After all, who needs the Villages when we have our own thriving towns and villages right here?

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected]

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