December 2017 Bethel Region Age-Friendly Community Initiative (AFCI) Annual Report Mission: To explore ways to make the community more supportive of healthy aging and to make it possible for people to stay in their own homes (and communities) as they age. The year 2017 has been an exciting and productive one for the Age-Friendly Community Initiative (AFCI). The AFCI’s region has expanded from the four towns of Bethel, Greenwood, Newry and Woodstock at the start of the year to now including Gilead and Hanover. Our region of six towns now represents close to one-seventh of the 50 age-friendly communities in Maine. At the last count, our number of active, enthusiastic volunteers has grown to an amazing 55. AFCI’s “Initial Action Plan” was approved in March by the World Health Organization (WHO) and AARP. It was the first such plan to be approved in Maine. The AFCI project base has been greatly expanded during the past year to include the following projects/programs:
Our transportation program has grown to provide free local rides to seniors 60 and over for both medical and non-medical rides. The well-accepted Neighbor-to-Neighbor volunteer driver program, initiated on October 1, includes 13 drivers who have been trained and vetted and are insured. Our partnership with Community Concepts, although currently on a four-month hiatus, provided approximately 100 free medical rides to seniors 60 and over to destinations such as Lewiston/Auburn and Norway. In the spring, AVCOG recognized the AFCI transportation program for “establishing innovative free transit for senior citizens in the greater Bethel area.”
An AARP grant-funded project, whose theme is “safety in the home,” has provided 12 free fall prevention personal and home assessments with the assistance of the Bethel Family Heath Center and an Occupational Therapist. Assistance is being provided to residents in the installation of fall prevention devices, such as grab bars. In collaboration with the American Red Cross, free smoke alarms are being offered to residents of Bethel, Greenwood, Newry and Woodstock and are being installed by the fire departments of the four towns. For the second season running, a seasonal walking program (13 separate participants) is being offered in Gould’s Bingham Gym and, in partnership with SeniorsPlus, an eight- session Matter of Balance course (ten participants) has been offered at no charge to area residents. Lastly, in collaboration with Western Maine Senior College’s To Your Health program, a presentation entitled “Be Safe in Your Home” was provided to the public.
A major thrust has been the development of a grant-funded adaptive toolkit that has effectively served to enhance our outreach program. The toolkit is a collection of varied tools such as kitchen helpers, lights, vision aids and manual dexterity aids, all of which help folks live easier lives. Toolkits, accompanied by a tool catalog, are being displayed at each of the six towns on a rotational basis, in Brooks Bros. where adaptive tools may be purchased, and on a loan basis in various age-friendly communities within Maine.
The AFCI website (www.agefriendlybethel.org), augmented by a Resource Directory and a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/agefriendlybethel), have been implemented. The Resource Directory is also made available to the public in hard copy form in selected locations throughout the six towns.
The local outreach program has provided a weekly column in The Citizen, periodic newsletters and several promotional materials. A number of outreach events, leveraging in many cases on the adaptive toolkit, has been made available to the public at numerous events and venues, such as Mollyockett Day, the Bethel House, the Bethel and Woodstock Senior Citizens clubs, and the SeniorsPlus Aging Well Living Well Expo (at Sunday River). During the past year, AFCI representatives were invited to speak at a number of State- and national-level conferences:
o Regional Age-Friendly Regional Conference (Hallowell) o Maine Age-Friendly Annual Meeting (Augusta) o MaIne Summit on Aging (Augusta) o Tri-State Collaborative Learning on Aging Summit (Portland) o AARP Annual Livable Communities Conference (Dallas)
Throughout the year, AFCI volunteers have participated in many telephone conferences and webinars involving participants from around Maine and the country. Discussion topics ranged from transportation to municipal tax abatement programs for seniors.
In collaboration with AARP Maine, a Shredder Day was made available to local residents and businesses, resulting in 6500 pounds of shredded paper.
The Town of Bethel continues to serve as AFCI’s fiduciary agent. Our organization has grown in terms of its Advisory Council membership, growing to 11 individuals, six of whom represent the six AFCI towns. A planning retreat for Council members was held in June to explore various opportunities for engagement. The initiation and sustainment of the AFCI program have depended on several important funding sources:
Residents of Bethel, Greenwood, Newry and Woodstock at their respective town meetings generously appropriated funds,
Maine Community Foundation grant (volunteer driver training and outreach)
AARP Community Challenge grant (safety in the home project, adaptive toolkit and outreach),
Private and business contributions.
AFCI has been actively advocating with the State legislature for the funding of LD 1248, “An Act to Improve Public Transportation in Maine,” which would provide funding for the support and expansion of local non-profit volunteer driver programs, such as the N2N program.