Local Government and Politics, News

All Ages Committee appointed in Swampscott, plans for more inclusive community

Two dozen people, with a wide range of positions in Swampscott, signed up to make the town more age-friendly.

After two months of seeking volunteers for the Swampscott for All Ages Committee, co-chairs Robert Powell and Heidi Whear are ready for the next step. The committee, partnered with the University of Massachusetts-Boston Gerontology Institute and Center for Social & Demographic Research in Aging, will implement a five-year plan to make the town an age-friendly, age-ready community, says Powell.

“Over the years of my ministry, I have been privileged to be with many wonderful people experiencing the joys and challenges of aging,” said Pastor Ian Holland of the First Church Congregational. “As a society, and as a town, I think we can do more to support one another. The committee, and the informal group that preceded it, is comprised of people with deep experiences working with seniors and broad expertise in the complex issues facing them, and I am very excited to learn from them as well.”

Along with Holland, the committee includes Swampscott Fire Chief Kevin Breen, a police officer, a realtor, members of existing boards and committees throughout the town, an audiologist, and members who have experience dealing with affordable housing. Powell said everyone who wrote in asking to be a member of the committee was appointed, and they are still accepting applications.

Anyone interested in joining the Swampscott for All Ages Committee can email alanzilli@town.swampscott.ma.us.

“We want people who are passionate about this and have a vested interest in making it happen,” said Powell. “The more people that are involved, the more we increase the odds of success.”

At Town Meeting last May, Powell and Whear secured $30,000 for an age-friendly community assessment to be completed by their university partner. The two co-chairs have a meeting with the school on Jan. 14 to talk about the specifics of the assessment and how to best distribute the cash from the town and conduct a community-wide survey with fundamental questions about housing and community engagement, said Powell.

The newly appointed committee is expected to meet monthly until they are ready to present any findings from the survey by Town Meeting in May. One of the main reasons for the largely diverse committee is to ensure it is eliciting responses from as many residents as possible, Powell said.

The undertaking is expected to take nine months, as soon as a contract is signed between the co-chairs and the university, said Powell. Best case scenario for the final research findings and an action plan is sometime in the fall.

“The people who came to this committee weren’t told to do so, they volunteered,” said Powell. “The chief of the fire department’s time is precious, yet he himself is approaching retirement and cares deeply about being able to stay and live in this town.”

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