Senior Advisory Committee wraps up year

Wed, 01/05/2022 - 7:00am

The Senior Advisory Committee wrapped up 2021 and prepared to move forward in 2022 with several projects and programs aimed at continuing its mission of enhancing the quality of life of senior citizens on Block Island and assisting them to continue within their homes and community as long as possible. Based on 2019 population statistics, the SAC reported that 42 percent of the island’s population is over the age of 60. The SAC plans to continue its advocacy role for island seniors, working to meet the challenges posed by Covid and reconfiguring its projects to better meet the needs of this large segment of Block Island’s population. Chair Sandra Kelly submitted the end-of-year report and proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2022 at the committee’s final meeting of 2021, held in December.
The report told of losing several Block Island seniors last year, as some passed away and others were forced to move off-island to residential care. According to the report, in response, the SAC continues its efforts to “foster the development of an adult care residence: a senior house. The primary goal of this facility would be to serve seniors who can no longer manage within their own home, but wish to continue living on the island.” The house would also provide short-term medical recovery or post-surgical care,
and would offer housing for caregivers. Jan Wampler, professor emeritus of architecture at MIT, has been working on a design for the residence, pro bono.
The SAC is also continuing with the development of two caregiver training programs. Working with the Visiting Nurses of South County, Seniors Helping Seniors, and the Community College of Rhode Island, the SAC is hoping to train island locals to become certified nursing assistants. The committee is also working to train individuals to become general home health aides.

The committee is committed to establishing a senior center at the Block Island Community Center in 2022, to provide a gathering place for the senior community. Isolation and loneliness are ongoing issues for the senior population and the SAC hopes the center can help to combat these issues. The plan is to operate the center 32 weeks a year, for two days each week, with one staff person and one volunteer. The SAC plans to start the program on an all-volunteer basis in the spring, as money from the new proposed
budget will not be available until July 2022.

The Senior Ride Service will continue in 2022, providing rides for seniors throughout the year. In the offseason, the service operates using taxis, but during the summer the SAC hopes to use the town’s van, paying a dedicated driver for 16 weeks, buying the gas, and paying some maintenance costs.
The Lunch Bunch will also continue with the delivery system used in 2021. Lunches for 60 senior households were made and delivered monthly over the past year.

The SAC continued to provide activities for seniors as well, working closely with the Island Free Library to facilitate online and virtual offerings such as a memoir writing group, book discussion group, the very popular “In Our Kitchens” cooking show, in-person and virtual Tai Chi, as well as a chair strengthening exercise program. The SAC hopes to continue these and other programs for 2022, including offerings focused on Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, home-safety evaluation, arts and crafts classes, musical workshops, writing and memory workshops, theater presentations, and estate planning. According to the report, “these programs are more than simply filler activities, rather they offer significant opportunities for spending time with friends and neighbors, for interacting on a personal level, as well as engaging in the specific activity.”