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Age-Friendly Communities are topic of County presentations

HOULTON, Maine — With an aging population, several communities in Aroostook County are mulling whether they want to take the necessary steps to become an “Age-Friendly Community.”

Representatives of the Aroostook Agency on Aging in partnership with officials of AARP Maine met with residents across The County this past week to talk about how their community could become an Age-Friendly Community.

About five people attended the session Wednesday at Houlton Regional Hospital. Similar meetings were held in Madawaska and Fort Fairfield on Thursday.

According to Patricia Oh, of AARP Maine, Age-Friendly Communities make a commitment to age-friendly planning and then advance efforts to help people of all ages live safely and comfortably in their town.

“They encourage older people to take an active role in making their community a better place for people to live, work, play and do business,” she said. “AARP Maine currently works with 59 local age-friendly teams across Maine, providing them with support, education, networking, and recognition.”

There are currently four “Age-Friendly Communities” in Aroostook and northern Washington counties as Caribou, Danforth, Presque Isle and Limestone have signed on and are working closely with the Aroostook Agency on Aging.

“We believe that Age-Friendly Communities bring people together to look at community needs, plan solutions and build community support structures,” said Joy Barresi Saucier, executive director of the Aroostook Agency on Aging. “It is this proactive, inclusive approach that makes profound differences in the community, helping all members to live a better life.”

She added that her agency’s mission is to promote the independence of older people in The County and to help people remain living their lives in the manner they desire for as long as possible.

“Knowing that we are all aging and that we are all going to need these services someday, our services are there to respond to the needs,” she said.

The Aroostook Agency on Aging services about 7,000 people in a variety of programs throughout The County, Barresi Saucier said. The organization’s mission is to improve the quality of life, maximize the independence, and promote the well-being of older people in Northern Maine. As part of that mission, one organizational goal is to empower and support the development of Age-Friendly Communities in Aroostook County.

Because so many communities have such large populations of older citizens, obtaining the “Age-Friendly” monicker can be beneficial for a number of reasons. Aside from additional support from groups like AARP-Maine, Age-Friendly Communities can serve as a potential draw for retirees or older individuals who are simply looking to visit communities that have lots to offer people in their age range.

To become an official “Age-Friendly Community,” a team comprised of residents needs to be formed before approaching municipal government officials for their endorsement.

Oh said while it was important for communities to have the support of their respective town councilors or selectmen, the bulk of the legwork in starting the application process must come from residents in the community.

As a member community, towns would then be eligible to apply for grant funds for projects that benefit not just the older population, but all residents.

Any residents from the Houlton area who are interested in volunteering for the planning group are asked to contact Nancy Ketch at 532-7111 or email her at comm.development@houlton-maine.com.

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