Healthy Aging in Somerset County
Somerset Public Health recognizes the importance for our county’s residents to age in place. That means having the support they need to stay in their own homes or communities throughout their lifespan. The average age in Somerset County is higher than any other county in our state—and Maine has the highest average age in the nation. We have developed several initiatives to address the public health issues our older citizens and their families face.
Skowhegan, Madison, and Jackman are the first in Somerset County to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. Each town has made a commitment to age-friendly planning, a process designed to help people live easily and comfortably in the place they call “home.” This planning encourages residents to take an active role in making their community a better place for people of all ages and abilities.
SPH will assist each community with conducting a baseline assessment of their age friendliness and developing an action plan. Older residents will be deeply involved in both the planning and monitoring progress toward bringing the action plan to life. The network will expand as more Somerset County communities make a commitment to age-friendly planning.
Senior Strong in Somerset County Committee
Senior Strong is a forum for its 40-plus members to network, coordinate service delivery in Somerset County, and jointly problem solve obstacles to healthy aging. Members include older citizens as well as representatives from more than 20 agencies, organizations, and businesses. The committee meets bi-monthly on the last Thursday of odd-numbered months. The agenda includes updates on programs and services, informative guest speakers, and an anonymous wrap-around referral process. Referrals focus on difficult situations older Somerset County residents are facing. To join or learn more, contact Deb Casey at 858-8458 or [email protected].
Achieving Better Health in Jackman: The Aging Project
The Maine Health Access Foundation has funded efforts in this rural, isolated area to help residents so they do not have to move away as they age. Work is focused on strengthening a community coalition and expanding services to meet known needs including transportation, homecare, palliative care and hospice, volunteer community supports, and evidence-based programming to prevent or manage chronic disease. Successes are shared with the Senior Strong Committee to inform and support the work in other communities. For example, the Bingham area now offers local and “downriver” transportation to its residents by adding on to a service started for Jackman, and both Skowhegan and Madison followed Jackman’s lead in joining the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities.
Mug Up Social Gathering Places for Healthy Aging
The Betterment Foundation and SPH are supporting the establishment or expansion of community locations where older people can socialize, learn, and connect. Maintaining quality relationships with friends, neighbors, and other members of the community as we age is important for good health and longevity. Lifelong learning helps keep the mind sharp. Gathering places also provide a convenient location for delivering evidence-based prevention and healthy living programs as well as connections to support services. Canaan, Skowhegan, and Smithfield currently host Mug Up coffee socials, game socials, book clubs, and other special events.