BAR HARBOR — Ninety-three percent of Bar Harbor residents aged 50 and above want to keep living here as they age, according to a recent survey taken by the town’s Task Force on Aging. Areas needing improvement, according to survey participants, include housing, transportation, health services and community support.
Task force chair Doreen Willett has asked the Bar Harbor town council Aug 7 to make the task force into a standing committee to continue work on the issues identified in the survey.
Following a unanimous council vote, Town Manager Cornell Knight is set to begin work on the ordinance change required to create a new, permanent “Bar Harbor Age-Friendly Committee.”
The task force was launched in May 2016 to “provide services and advocacy that enable older residents of Bar Harbor to live in the community for as long as possible,” according to a 2018 report published by the UMaine Center of Aging.
The task force completed a survey with a $5000 grant from AARP Maine, and help from the UMaine Center on Aging. The survey polled 369 registered voters in Bar Harbor aged 50 and above.
Ninety-five percent of those polled were “generally satisfied with Bar Harbor as a place to live,” the survey found.
“The good news is: Bar Harbor is already doing a really good job at being an age-friendly community,” Willett told the council. But there are areas for improvement.
Of the respondents, 44.6 percent said they do not know if there are “sufficient senior housing options,” and 42.6 percent think there are not. Most said they would prefer single-level apartments or condos, followed by senior housing communities or multi-generational housing communities.
Transportation is a problem for 15.4 percent of respondents. Most seniors rely on driving themselves; in fact, the ability to drive is seen as important for 98 percent of participants.
“The Island Explorer is available, of course,” Willett said. “However, it is not available door-to door.” Willet is the director of Island Connections, an agency that provides free rides to seniors and people with disabilities.
Survey participants also cited concerns about the availability of parking and the condition of sidewalks.
“Age-friendly communities experience great success when they’re supported by their municipality or town government,” Willett said. “And at the end of the day, if a sidewalk gets fixed, it helps the person in a wheelchair as well as the person in a stroller. So that’s how you need to think about this … ‘age-friendly’ is from zero to the end.”
The town council agreed that the task force’s work is important and should continue.
“We do have a lot of work to do,” said Judie Noonan, the town council representative on the task force.
Councilor Paul Paradis agreed. “Though I am always hesitant to add a new committee, I really think this is an important one. I think it’s a good thing.”
The Bar Harbor Age-Friendly Community survey results are available to read on the Task Force on Aging page on the town’s website.