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AARP steps in to help Swampscott All Ages Committee

SWAMPSCOTT — The town’s All Ages Committee just gained a full state of resources.

At a community event two weeks ago, Swampscott became one of 421 communities across the state to be admitted into the network of age-friendly states and communities by AARP. The admission highlights the town’s elected leadership’s commitment to make Swampscott an age-friendly place to live.

“From my perspective, the just-completed UMass-Boston research provides us with a roadmap to make our community more livable for all ages — young and old,” said Swampscott for All Ages Committee co-chair Bob Powell. “Being in the AARP network means that we are now obligated to accomplish, over a five-year period, the goals that we have identified in order to stay in the network. This is a plan that must produce results; it’s not a plan that will sit on a shelf, gathering dust, never to be viewed again.”

At the community event, after the admission, Dr. Caitlyn Coyle of the UMass-Boston’s Center for Social & Demographic Research on Aging presented results from the town’s $30,000 needs assessment, which was approved at Town Meeting last May, said Powell. Coyle, the primary author of the Swampscott for All Ages survey, reviewed key findings from her research from the 1,645 (33 percent) residents over 55 who answered the survey. 

There were a few key points highlighted in the survey, Powell said. By 2030, 35 percent of Swampscott residents will be 60 years of age and older and 85 percent of respondents indicated that remaining living in Swampscott is important to them. Being in the AARP network will help the committee stay abreast of cutting-edge programs and services to adopt in Swampscott so older residents can continue to live in town, he added.

A membership in the network gives the town’s committee resources for identifying and assessing community needs and access to technical assistance and expert-led webinars. It also fosters partnerships among community groups and stakeholders, provides leadership opportunities for volunteers, and enables changes that benefit people of all ages. 

“I am grateful that the Age Friendly Committee is making such great efforts to reach out across Swampscott to gather the best ideas about how to make Swampscott more friendly and supportive to our aging population,” said Select Board Chairman Peter Spellios. “The result will be a road map we can follow for many years to come.” 

The All Ages Committee is currently developing an action plan for initiatives that focus on areas such as housing, transportation, caregiving, community engagement, volunteering, and social inclusion,” Powell said. It also has plans to combat isolation among older citizens for the community to be a great place to grow up and grow old in, he added. 

“What is so exciting about Swampscott is we have one of the most graying communities in commonwealth and certainly in Essex County,” said Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald. “We need to make sure we have the right public housing and affordable housing opportunities. The Machon School housing development for over 55 is coming along, but we have to do more. We have to be thinking much more carefully about folks who want to stay in Swampscott but don’t have the ability to shovel their driveways or do things that require owning a home.”

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